MARGARET RIZZA's life has unfolded remarkably (Interview, 20 September
2013). She had a 25-year career as an opera singer (as Margaret
Lensky), and also taught singing for more than 20 years at the
Guildhall School of Music and Drama. But she started to compose in
1997, and now, in her eighties, has become a phenomenally
successful writer of devotional music. Her name has spread around
the world, with sheet-music sales in their thousands and
chart-topping discs to her credit.
Officium Divinum: The Divine Office (RSCM, £7.95
(CT Bookshop £7.15 - Use code
CT381 ); B0373), 16 new pieces by Rizza, also comes with
a CD recording (£10 (£9), CR022; available together at £15
(£13.50); B0375), performed by the Convivium Singers and
directed by Eamonn Dougan, who is associate conductor of The
Sixteen. The disc is superb, and the publication itself of a high
standard. The works take us on a musical journey through the daily
cycle of prayer from dawn to dusk.
There are settings of texts from the Common Worship
cycle of daily prayer, contemporary versions of the Magnificat,
Nunc Dimittis, and Benedictus, settings of poems by William Blake
and George Herbert, a setting of the Gloria in a minor key, and
three poems from David Adam's popular book of modern prayers
written in the Celtic tradition.
Ever practical, Rizza wants choirs of all shapes and sizes to
perform this music, and she has said that she doesn't want choirs
to be put off because they don't have the instruments she asks for.
Some of these instruments are marked as optional, but some seem to
me to be essential, although choirs can adapt to suit themselves.
Dynamics are basic, and mainly give an indication of volume rather
than expression; and everything is presented in a straightforward
and unfussy way.
If you already know Rizza's music, you will know that it is
warm, melodic, soothing, and concordant. It always has something to
say musically, but is rarely overtly dramatic (the opening of the
Benedictus is an exception), and never ruffles any feathers. If it
all sounds "the same" to me, I mean that as a compliment in this