In Praise of Saint Columba: The Sound-world of the Celtic Church

This groundbreaking programme from Geoffrey Webber’s consistently inventive choir seeks to recreate three distinct sound-worlds. Just as the influence of Irish monks extended not only across Scotland but also to mainland Europe, so we imagine our way back down the centuries into 7th-century hermits’ cells, 10th-century Celtic foundations in Switzerland, and the 14th-century world of Inchcolm Abbey, the ‘Iona of the East’ in the Firth of Forth.

Silent footprints of musical activity – the evidence of early notation but also of stone carvings, manuscript illuminations, and documents of the early Church – have guided both vocal and instrumental approaches in the choir’s work with scholar and piper Barnaby Brown, an exciting extended collaboration which was further informed by oral traditions from as far afield as Sardinia and the Outer Hebrides.

"performances of grace: melodies float and weave with clarity, precision and feeling...deeply affecting to these agnostic ears."

"Webber and his choristers have produced a generously filled disc that seeks to recreate three distinct sound worlds...Everything is performed with a missionary zeal...hauntingly beautiful."

"the results are spellbinding...What all this adds up to is a “new” choral repertoire–a sound world liberated from the drab modern conception of plainsong."

"What with improvisation, vocal imitations of traditional singers, unusual instruments and scholarly delving, Geoffrey Wheeler, Barnaby Brown and Delphian have produced a generously filled and decidedly ambitious disc. These qualities are matched by the choir and the rest of the performers who have prepared and performed both immaculately and with imagination."

"Who can say whether these interpretations of chants and hymns from the early Celtic church are authentic, but they have been done with intelligence, musicality and enthusiasm…[the choir] give a bracing vigour and unusual freedom to this ancient music."

"quite exceptional on every level…[Brown, the Caius College Cambridge Choir and Simon O’Dwyer] bring to life seventh century monastic life…an utterly compelling disk; I might single out the prayer Noli Pater as a particularly magical moment; young voices working at an extraordinarily high level of commitment and interpretation."


"Every interpretative choice made by conductor Geoffrey Webber sounds musically justified, the evidence for them documented in detail in the booklet…a magnificent sound, and hopefully unlike anything you've ever heard – like a couple of musically-literate whales singing an aria."

"This is a substantial demonstration of creative musicology"


"This is one of those releases that can genuinely be described as unique...this fascinating release is well worth investigating."


Producer: Paul Baxter
Recording venue(s): St Peter’s Church, Horningsea, Cambridgeshire
Recording dates: 16-18 July 2013
Physical format: Jewel case
Number of discs: 1
Number of tracks: 15
Release date: 30 June 2014
Total playing time: 1:16:15
Album ID: DCD34137

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