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When sleep comes

Evening meditations for voices & saxophone
Tenebrae, Christian Forshaw (saxophone), Nigel Short (conductor) Detailed performer information
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Label: Signum Classics
Recording details: May 2021
All Hallows, Gospel Oak, London, United Kingdom
Produced by Nicholas Parker
Engineered by Mike Hatch & Joshua Mannall
Release date: April 2022
Total duration: 62 minutes 22 seconds

Virtuoso saxophonist Christian Forshaw is joined by a consort of Tenebrae singers in an ethereal sequence of penitential settings for Passiontide, elements of ancient and modern combining to stunning effect.

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The combination of ancient and modern in many art forms has cast something of a spell over modern audiences. I very much enjoyed listening to former collaborations between voices and saxophone, and was mesmerised by how well the two go together. This programme—which has been in the making for some time now—very much celebrates and explores the amalgamation of two distinct styles of choral music writing.

In Christian Forshaw, we have a modern minimalist composer (and saxophonist) whose music evokes a sense of calm and contemplation, occasionally interrupted by powerful emotional outbursts as and when expressed in the texts he sets. On this recording we have set out to explore settings by Renaissance masters such as Thomas Tallis and Orlando Gibbons, and see how they can be blended with modern harmonies and the use of more complex rhythmic patterns. Alongside re-workings of motets and other sacred works there are also some new compositions, all designed to emphasise the beauty and soothing nature of the original settings.

Adding an extra layer of poignancy is the fact that this recording was created during the Covid-19 pandemic, when musicians across the world were facing previously unimagined challenges. It was an absolute joy to be back in the 'studio' (in this case, the beautiful acoustic of All Hallows Gospel Oak), and I hope you will take as much comfort in listening to this music as we did in recording it.

Nigel Short © 2022

The juxtaposition of saxophone and voices has been central to my work as a composer, arranger and performer for almost 30 years. The way sound can morph from one to the other in an almost imperceptible way has fascinated musicians from all genres for over a century. Johnny Hodges & Ella Fitzgerald, Stan Getz & Astrud Gilberto and Jan Garbarek & The Hilliard Ensemble have all brought their own unique approaches to this combination of forces.

My own concept of sound derived from my days as a chorister. That aesthetic has always been central to the way I approach the saxophone, aiming to phrase and resonate like a singer. I enjoy the way there is so much common ground between the two, but that they are also able to depart from each other and explore their own uniqueness.

The repertoire in this collection spans a number of centuries, but there is very much common ground in the way each piece invites the listener to a place of stillness and reflection. The arrangements at times ask the saxophone to sit within the ensemble as another voice, but at other times call it to rise out of the texture in a more soloistic way.

Nigel Short and I first worked together in 2007 for a tour of my second album Renouncement, and again in 2012 for Songs of Solace. We spoke back then about the possibility of a collaboration with Tenebrae, and it has been a delight to finally bring that dream to life with this album.

Christian Forshaw © 2022

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