Why this recording - and why now?
Many choirs have tackled Mass in Blue in its short history, and it has become a staple of the “lighter” choral repertoire, yet so far there has only been one recording - made fifteen years ago. Choral jazz itself is a hard thing to define – modern British composers such as John Rutter and Bob Chilcott have woven jazz into their musical styles for many years, yet to find a choral piece that puts jazz style front and centre, such as Mass in Blue, is a surprisingly rare thing. After a very successful concert performance in June 2015, we have chosen to present it as we did then, in the context of some of the jazz standards that are the fabric of the musical world that Mass in Blue inhabits, and are delighted to have Will Todd's support for our plans.
Nonsuch Singers is one of London’s top amateur choirs and we regularly present concerts in some of the capital’s best-loved venues. Under the direction of Tom Bullard, our 40 experienced, versatile singers bring to life innovative programmes of works from the Renaissance through to today. We have commissioned and premiered a song cycle by Roxanna Panufnik, and given UK premieres of works by Sir John Tavener and Gabriel Jackson, whose cantata To the Field of Stars formed the title track of our debut recording in 2016.
Nonsuch Singers originated from an idea mooted among friends over a picnic in Surrey’s Nonsuch Park over 40 years ago, and the original ethos of combining quality musicianship with a tangible enjoyment of singing shines through to this day.
It is a huge privilege for the choir to work alongside Tom's predecessor as Musical Director of the Swingle Singers, Joanna Forbes-L’Estrange, and the multi-talented performer and producer Alexander L’Estrange, as well as their amazing trio, to bring this wonderful music to life.
What else will be on the CD?
Some of Ward Swingle’s big band arrangements, from the group’s 1979 album "Skyliner", drawing on the combined experiences of Tom, Joanna and Alexander who have all worked closely with Ward himself. Ward’s highly complex arrangement of "Back Bay Shuffle" is scored for no fewer than 13 voices, expertly imitating the sax, trumpet and trombone sections of a big band, with lyrics by Jon Hendricks, and was an instant hit with the choir! Alongside one of Alexander’s ingenious Great American Songbook arrangements, originally written for the King’s Singers, Tom wanted the choir to pay tribute to one more of the great vocal jazz groups, New York Voices, with Darmon Meader’s effortlessly cool reimagining of "On a clear day", plus a beautiful a cappella arrangement by Jamey Ray of the Gershwin classic, "Someone to watch over me".
All these standards, and the legacy of vocal jazz that they have inspired, form the backdrop for "Mass in Blue", bringing Nonsuch Singers a world away from the classical world that we normally inhabit and into the realm of close-harmony singing, using Tom's own background in the Swingle Singers to mould the choir’s sound into that of a close-miked jazz choir, presenting the Mass as it has never been heard on CD before.
Why do we need your money?
As a charity, Nonsuch Singers' costs are usually covered by its audiences, its friends and its members. For this ambitious project we are inviting you to get involved: with your help this recording will help to ensure that good quality, accessible contemporary music and the energy of London’s thriving choir scene are enjoyed by as wide an audience as possible. We think we're creating a set of recordings that you'll want to own - and will listen to over and over again.
We're offering rewards for your generosity - and have set these at a level that will allow us to claim Gift Aid on your contributions if you are a UK taxpayer. With your help, we can turn our £4,000 target into £5,000 of funding. Thank you for your support.