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Will Todd (b1970)

Passion Music & Jazz Missa Brevis

St Martin's Voices, Will Todd Ensemble, Will Todd (conductor) Detailed performer information
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Label: Signum Classics
Recording details: May 2018
St Jude-on-the-Hill, Hampstead Garden Suburb, London, United Kingdom
Produced by Tim Oldham
Engineered by Mike Hatch & James Waterhouse
Release date: February 2019
Total duration: 77 minutes 32 seconds

Passion Music was commissioned from Will Todd—one of the UK’s most popular choral composers—for the choirs of St Martin-in-the-Fields and continues the fusion of jazz and choral music so successfully blended in his Mass in Blue which has been performed hundreds of times all over the world. The same influences also infuse the Jazz Missa Brevis, breathing new life into the texts of the Latin Mass.

Passion Music
Commissioned for the choirs of St Martin-in-the-Fields, London, in 2018, Passion Music continues the fusion of jazz and choral music so successfully blended in Will Todd’s Mass in Blue. The structure highlights different points in the Passion story, beginning with a new setting of ‘Greater love has no man’ and including an evocative Stabat mater, a movement focusing on the seven last words of Christ, and a setting of ‘Were you there when they crucified my Lord?’. While some sections are reflective, Todd also makes full use of his understanding of energetic jazz and gospel. The vocal soloist is given plenty of expressive freedom, singing both with the choir and independently to achieve the characteristic jazz-soul style. The seven-piece jazz accompaniment provides a background at times intimate and spellbinding, at others driving and sensual. Will Todd directed the premiere at St Martin's in March 2018 with Shaneeka Simon, John Turville, the Will Todd Ensemble and combined choirs of St Martin-in-the-Fields. The work received its US premiere in February 2019 at the American Choral Directors Association International Conference in Kansas City.

Jazz Missa Brevis
Commissioned by David Price for Portsmouth Cathedral with funds from The Groves Legacy, Will Todd’s Jazz Missa Brevis gives new life to the sung Latin Mass texts in an accessible, short setting which embraces a variety of jazz styles, from the swinging jazz waltz Kyrie to the up-beat Latin-groove Gloria. The smooth jazz ballad Sanctus, 7/8 Benedictus and soulful Agnus Dei complete this inspiring Mass setting. Underpinned by Todd’s characteristic jazz harmonies and melodic craftsmanship, it is suitable for performance both liturgically and as part of a concert by mixed choirs of all abilities. Performed here by the St Martin’s Voices and Will Todd Ensemble, the work can also be accompanied by piano alone (as written or extemporised) or jazz trio (piano, bass and drums).

Will Todd writes: 'In writing Jazz Missa Brevis for Portsmouth Cathedral Choir, I have aimed to create simple and lasting music that will work equally well in liturgy or in concert. Drawing on my own piano playing style, all of the movements began life as extended improvisations which I then honed and developed into the completed movements. I hope this ensures that there is a genuine jazz ‘heart’ to each of the sections. In the same way that I would in a jazz gig, I’ve made sure there is a contrast of rhythmic feels between the movements. I hope singers, musicians and conductors will enjoy performing this piece as much as I have enjoyed writing it!'

Included on this disc are four separate a cappella settings: God So Loved The World, I Am Changed, Tantum Ergo and What Sweeter Music. These are all recent commissions, written for choirs in the UK. God So Loved the World was commissioned for the choirs at Oakham School and is a soft, yearning setting for divisi voices. I Am Changed was written for the John Lewis Choir in 2016 with a text of my own; it follows a similar structure to my well-known carol My Lord Has Come, although this piece is in seven parts. Tantum Ergo was commissioned by St Michael’s Church in Edinburgh and is a simple four-part setting of this well-known Latin text. Finally, What Sweeter Music sets words by Robert Herrick and was commissioned by Dundee University Choir in 2015.

Signum Classics © 2019

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