Bill Ives has enjoyed a rich and varied career as both performer and composer (Grayston Ives). These experiences, culminating in nearly two decades as Informator Choristarum (Director of Music) at Magdalen College, Oxford, are reflected in a compositional style which is complex yet accessible, rich and colourful. His choral music comes from the heart, and this deeply personal reaction to the texts enables the performer or listener to engage with and enjoy the music to its full extent.
This recording represents two ‘firsts’ for the choirs of Jesus College, Cambridge: The first time the choir have collaborated on a recording with the Britten Sinfonia, as well as is the first time both chapel and college choirs they have joined forces for an entire album.
Bill (Grayston) Ives writes: “In the Requiem many influences are thrown into the musical melting pot and will be apparent to the discerning listener. Ultimately, the piece is firmly rooted in the Anglican choral tradition (written specifically for liturgical performance), the distillation of a lifetime in music ... The delicate, sweet sound of a pair of tiny hand-held cymbals is heard at the opening and at intervals throughout. They were bought at Snape Maltings from a group of Tibetan monks who were resident there during the summer of 2008 when ideas for the piece were forming.”
Jesus College, Cambridge, is distinctive in maintaining two choirs. The Chapel Choir is made up of boy trebles aged 7 to 15. It dates from the foundation of the College in 1496 and was re-founded and endowed in 1849. The College Choir was formed in 1982 following the admission of women undergraduates and its student members study a wide array of subjects. Soprano Choral Scholars are joined by the same contraltos, countertenors, tenors and basses of the Chapel Choir. Each choir has developed a distinctive reputation and repertoire, but they combine regularly for key events and large-scale projects under the leadership of the Director of Music, Richard Pinel. Whilst their principal responsibility is to sing choral services in Jesus College’s twelfth-century Chapel four times per week between them, the Choirs frequently collaborate with professional orchestras and instrumental ensembles including Britten Sinfonia, Fretwork, and the Saraband Consort. In 2017 the boy choristers sang in Britten’s War Requiem at Saffron Hall and collaborated with prog-rock band Big Big Train in their single Merry Christmas, which reached No. 2 in the physical sales charts. In 2018 the College Choir recorded selections of polyphony for the Christmas edition of The Economist. Recent joint ventures have included a concert as part of the Brandenburg Festival at St Martin-in-the-Fields featuring Mozart’s Requiem in D minor. Their previous disc – Praise my Soul – was acclaimed for its ‘Outstanding musicmaking’. The Choirs regularly perform concerts outside Cambridge, and recent tour destinations have included Romania, South Africa, Malta, Italy, Hong Kong and China, and the USA, as well as many performances around the UK.