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Anastasis - International Staff Songsters

Anastasis - International Staff Songsters

Anastasis - International Staff Songsters

31 May 2017

The International Staff Songsters performed at Perth Fortress as part of the Australian and New Zealand tour in April. 

Reviewed by Merv Collins

There was a special moment in the Good Friday afternoon meeting at Camberwell Citadel.

The sopranos of the International Staff Songsters (ISS) took flight in the soaring refrain of Annie Laurie to which they sang, “The Christ of Calvary, the dearest name to me”.

It was thrilling singing of meaningful words to a gorgeous old melody. A once-in-a-lifetime experience? Well, though nothing replaces being there, thanks to the miracles of recorded music, the moment can be recalled. I can listen again as I write and enjoy the beauty over and over.

The ISS recorded its album Anastasis (Resurrection) for its Australia and New Zealand tour, which culminated at Easter in Melbourne.

It is a musical reflection on the Easter story, not merely a collection of songs; it takes the listener from the misery of Good Friday to the euphoria of Easter morning.

The best tracks, for me, are the slower ones – the ISS leader, Dorothy Nancekievill knows the merits of a restrained tempo. It shows the tone quality and phrasing of her group as well as allowing time to take in the words and appreciate the harmonies. Come to the Cross, The Christ of Calvary, and A Light Came Out of Darkness are all allowed to breathe, and Stainer’s God So Loved the World and the unaccompanied Jesus Himself Drew Near are well-nigh exquisite.

Anastasis, from which the album gets its title, is an interesting extended work from lyricist Malcolm Westwood set to music by Richard Phillips, the ISS’ busy piano accompanist.

It depicts the three days of Easter with a dramatic up-tempo opening movement, a dark middle section and a triumphant ending, the voices repeating “He is risen” in a crescendo of excitement to a driving “Love’s redeeming work is done”, “Hallelujah!” we all replied.

This is a choir of real quality with evenness through its sections, rare talent in its sopranos and mellow depth in its basses.

It is a group proclaiming Christ’s message in a cultured manner; a group of which The Salvation Army can be proud and, in turn, a recording in which the ISS can be well-pleased. It serves its purpose most admirably.

Anastasis is available from the Trade in both Sydney and Melbourne for $27.50. 

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