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UNITY: May They All Be One

Cappella Caeciliana & Donal McCrisken

Cappella Caeciliana's 5th CD takes its title from the composition "Ut omnes unum sint" by Sir James MacMillan - "May they all be one", performed jointly with The Priests. The rest of the CD contains a selection of works from Cappella's current repertoire.

The recording takes its title from "Ut omnes unum sint" - Christ's exhortation for unity amongst his followers - which was composed by Sir James MacMillan for the choir's 20th anniversary.

The title track was recorded in Good Shepherd Church, Belfast, on 12th March 2016, conducted by the composer and also featuring Cappella's founder members The Priests.

The remaining tracks were recorded in St Bernadette's Church, Belfast, on 3th and 4th March 2018, conducted by Donal McCrisken. The recording engineer and producer was Stephen Hamill, who also acted as organist on "Seek him who maketh the seven stars" and "In the bleak mid-winter".

The unity theme celebrates the cross-community nature of this Belfast-based choir.

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Reflecting Light

Our fourth CD reflects the inner light which has inspired composers to represent their own unique sense of the spiritual in music. It was recorded in Down Cathedral. The organist is Stephen Hamill.

This CD contains Cappella Caeciliana's selection of tracks popular with its audiences and shows the development of musical style from the 16th to the 21st centuries. Released to mark the start of the choir's 20th season, the lineup has a range of choir members old and new, including founder members Fathers Eugene O'Hagan, Martin O'Hagan and David Delargy, also known as "The Priests".

The title refers to the inner light which has inspired composers to represent their own unique sense of the spiritual in music.

Culture Northern Ireland's review of the CD, by Terry Blain:

On November 22, 1995 – St Cecilia’s Day – a new choir named after the patron saint of music was formed in Belfast. That same choir, Cappella Caeciliana, has just entered its 20th year of existence, and marks it with the release of its forth album, Reflecting Light.

The collection is, to some extent, a conspectus of Cappella’s development over the past two decades. There is, for instance, plenty of music reflecting the choir’s early ambition to revivify repertoire that used to feature prominently in Catholic liturgy, but had fallen from active usage at parish church level.

The opening 'O Nata Lux', by the medieval English composer Thomas Tallis, falls into that category. It’s treated to a raptly expressive performance, which immediately highlights how comfortably at home the choir is in the ecclesiastical idiom. The feeling is essentially devotional, which doesn’t preclude subtle interpretive touches, such as the lowering of dynamic on the repeated imprecation that closes the setting.

The same four notes that launch the Tallis piece were used by contemporary Scottish composer, James MacMillan, five centuries later to start 'O Radiant Dawn', and that composition sits fascinatingly alongside the Tallis in the programme’s sequence.

MacMillan is a more muscular Christian than Tallis, and the Cappella singers again show impressive technical control in the long crescendos marked on the repetitions of the word 'Come', and in their nimble negotiation of the brief syllable rush that comes after.

Half a dozen other contemporary composers feature in the recital, an indication of how strong Cappella’s commitment has become to music of our own era.

The sustained quiet singing required in Morten Lauridsen’s 'O Magnum Mysterium' can easily lead to imbalances between the parts, but not here – this is clearly a choir where members listen carefully to one another, rather than plough a score-bound, blinkered furrow of their own making.

American composer Eric Whitacre’s 'Lux Aurumque', with its tight intervals and eight-part writing, is a major test of poise and tuning for a choir of 25 singers. Again Cappella passes with confidence, conjuring a relishable soft landing on the final thrumming chords of Whitacre’s setting.

There is also a recent piece by Belfast composer Neil Martin, which Cappella commissioned and took to America when they toured there in 2011. 'Exsultet' is unusual in combining the Latin of the Easter Vigil prayer with an interpolated middle section in Irish, where Martin weaves the parts together with the deftness of a hand-spun tapestry.

Alongside works by Byrd, Kodály, Rachmaninov, Palestrina and Pitoni, there is also a strong seasonal flavouring. The Reginald Jacques arrangement of 'Away In A Manger', for example, is particularly successful, the hushed concentration of the final verse aptly catching the atmosphere of humble stable and small, vulnerable infant.

Holst’s 'Personent Hodie', meanwhile, finds the choir’s men in lusty fettle, while only in John Rutter’s gorgeous 'Nativity Carol' do standards slip a little – the tuning here is tired, the tempo sluggish, and it sounds as though another take would have been advisable.

Closing out the album are two pieces which no doubt prove immensely popular at Cappella’s public concerts. First is Bob Chilcott’s tastefully restrained take on the evergreen 'Londonderry Air', where the pipes that are calling in this instance belong to the euphonius organ of Down Cathedral, played by the excellent Stephen Hamill, who also engineered and produced the recording.

Then, finally, the traditional 'She Moved Through The Fair', hauntingly arranged by the choir’s conductor Donal McCrisken. The resonant soprano of soloist Nuala Murray over a muted humming accompaniment makes verse one especially suggestive, and the effect is revisited at the ghostly reappearance of the narrator’s dead lover at the conclusion.

McCrisken has conducted Cappella Caeciliana since 1999, and deserves great credit for the high standards achieved in this album, heralding the choir’s 20th anniversary. With full texts and translations included, it would make an excellent stocking-filler for anyone who enjoys warm, communicative choral singing at Christmas.

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O Quam Gloriosum

Our third CD, which is fully a cappella, celebrates the great choral music of Renaissance Italy, and marks our visit to Rome at Easter 2008.

Donal McCrisken conducts Cappella Caeciliana in this celebration of the music of Renaissance Italy. The soloist on 'Magnificat' is Fr Eugene O'Hagan of 'The Priests' fame. The CD was recorded in the Chapel of St MacNissi's College, situated in the beautiful Glens of Antrim overlooking the Irish Sea.

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Sing for the Morning's Joy

Our second CD traces the Church's liturgical year from Advent to All Saints, topped and tailed by hymns in honour of St Cecilia. This CD was recorded in St Anne's Cathedral, Belfast.

This is the second recording by Cappella Caeciliana.

The choir is conducted by Donal McCrisken, its musical director since 1999. The organist is Philip Stopford, musical director at St Anne's Cathedral in Belfast where the recording was made.

Sing for the Morning's Joy is a wide-ranging collection of pieces framed by two very special tributes to St Cecilia, the patron saint of music whose name Cappella Caeciliana is proud to bear and whose feast falls on November 22nd. Next comes Advent repertoire (tracks 2 & 3), moving through Christmas (tracks 4 & 5) to the beautiful Goodall setting of Love Divine written for the Millennium in 2000. There follow three pieces associated with either St Patrick or the broader Irish theme (tracks 7 - 9) and three Lenten motets (tracks 10 - 12). Track 13 was composed for the Feast of the Ascension while tracks 14 - 17 are all associated with the celebration of Vespers. Track 18 is for the Feast of All Saints and we come full circle in the final track to St Cecilia.

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Cantate Domino

Our debut CD features a wide selection of music of celebration. This recording was made in St Martin's Church of Ireland church in East Belfast.

On the feast of St Cecilia 2001 (22nd November), Cappella Caeciliana released its first CD - Cantate Domino - Music of Celebration from Cappella Caeciliana. The CD is on the prestigious Priory Records label. The CD was launched at a concert at St Patrick's Church, Donegall Street, Belfast, in front of a capacity audience of over 500.

The CD features a wide range of music from plainchant to 20th century, both a cappella and accompanied.

The choir is conducted by Donal McCrisken, its musical director since 1999. The CD also features the accomplished Northern Irish musicians Cliona Doris (harp) and Neale Agnew (organ).

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