The cover artwork for Exeter College Chapel Choir’s new album, Mater Mundi
Curating music for Exeter College Chapel Choir’s new album, Mater Mundi, was a long process which develop very organically. I knew that, following the success of the Christmas disc On Christmas Night (still available for purchase from the College!), I did not want to record just another disc of ‘Evensong’ music purely for the sake of recording a disc on my final year as the Organ Scholar at Exeter College. What made my time at Exeter so enjoyable was the artistic and musical freedom that I had at my disposal. A completely unique set-up which is not replicated with such quality anywhere in the UK. Being able to mould and collaborate with a choir of incredibly talented twenty-odd-year-olds (with their incredibly vibrant sound) was such a privilege – and one that I will always remain grateful for.
Being a Northern Irish-Pole who came to Oxford via Bristol, I decided on a tracklist that centres around notions of Marian devotion and identities.
We recorded the album over a period of just over a week during a cold and wet January. A number of tracks are sung in Polish by people who have never spoken a word of Polish in their life. The energy behind the album comes not only from the ambition and novelty of the music but also the exploration of linguistics boundaries. As a native Polish speaker, I am incredibly proud and satisfied with the results; it’s impressive, in a space of only a few days and a handful of hours, to master phrases such as wszystko o wszystkim.
The mass-setting on this album, while a little unusual, celebrates the admission of women sopranos and altos into Exeter College Chapel Choir in 1996. While a topic which causes much debate, I do believe that Exeter (and Oxford in general) is a fine example of how old and new choral traditions can co-exist: safely side-by-side. Something which caused much controversy and questioned the identity of Exeter College Chapel Choir. My favourite track from the mass-setting has to be the Benedictus for its incredibly fun and in places ‘funky’ alto line!
Other tracks include, an Ubi Caritas by Gjeilo; followed swiftly by Łukaszewski’s stunning setting of a letter written from Auschwitz by Saint Maximilian Kolbe (Ostatni List). What follows is a Marian text, O how sorrowful the parting (Górecki) – a text in which a mother narrates her weeping for the loss of a child; followed by a simple, yet incredibly effective lullaby. The Heaven’s Flock (Ešenvalds), one of my personal favourites, sings of one’s hopelessness at a time of need. Following that, you will find an exciting mass-setting and the ultimate act of Marian devotion in the form of the stunning opening chords of Totus Tuus (Górecki).
I do hope that this album will introduce those kind enough to listen to at least one track that they were not familiar with. If you find a track you have particularly enjoyed, please let me know!
The new album will go on sale from 22 May, priced at £10, and to celebrate its launch there will be a free concert in Exeter College Chapel. The concert starts at 7.30 pm and everyone is welcome. Click here for more details.
To pre-order the album please email firstname.lastname@example.org. Proceeds from the album will help to subsidise the Choir’s annual overseas tour so that all members of the Choir can participate.