Press reviews:
The Book of New Responses

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The Organ
Issue: Autumn 2010

These two publications will be welcomed by enterprising choirs for the opportunities they represent to expand their repertoire in two genres of church music that quickly become tired through overexposure... (read the missing text, about Sleep, Holy Babe.)
The Responses of the other volume are also contributed by contemporary composers, some of whom are well-established (Francis Pott, Philip Moore and Andrew Gant). These vary in texture too and are helpfully divided according to style: first are the sets in more modern (sometimes non-tonal) harmony, which doesn’t necessarily mean more difficult; there’s one pentatonic set, and finally are a handful in a more traditional, harmonic style, which doesn’t mean dull, so this book should be a able to provide something that can be used alongside virtually all aspects of the Anglican choral repertoire and is therefore invaluable.

— Curtis Rogers

Classical Music Magazine
Issue: 20 November 2010

(The first part of this review deals with Sleep Holy Babe) ...But more valuable, I feel, is The Book of New Responses. I’m sure that many choral singers could count on the fingers of two hands the number of settings of Preces and Responses they sing regularly, and I would wager that few of these could be described as ‘contemporary’. Step forward The Book of New Reponses, all but one of which were composed within the last ten years. It would be invidious to compare the works of today’s composers with illustrious forbearers, but suffice to say that the range of styles contained in the book both compliments and extends the existing repertoire, with much that is both expressive and innovative.
In 2011, Shorter House will follow up its début publications with a book of new settings of canticles for Evensong, the Magnificat and Nunc Dimittis, featuring many of the composers featured in Sleep, Holy Babe and The Book of New Responses, as well as some younger and more up-coming names, This will come at the same time as their market-presence is boosted by distribution in the USA and Canada - auspicious beginnings for a worthy venture, and I look forward to future Shorter House volumes with impatience and excitement.

— Adrian Horsewood

Muso Magazine
Issue: February/March 2011

5 Stars: Music publishing company Shorter House launched in September 2010 with two anthologies. The Book of New Responses and Sleep, Holy Babe alongside a bash at Charterhouse Square. The brainchild of Tom Shorter, the collections are a useful addition to the British choral music canon. (Read the missing text, about Sleep, Holy Babe.)
The Book of New Responses contains 12, um, New Responses, again featuring well-known composers such as Frances Pott and Philip Moore alongside newbie but no less talented types Daniel Burges and Alice Campion (sic). One of the standout pieces for me is Burges’ Responses (second set) and this is in no way because I used to sing in a choir with him. Modern, fresh and deliciously scrunchy, it’s a piece I can’t wait to introduce to my own choir. I also love Ben Parry’s gorgeously Britteneque Preces (opening set).

— Hazel Davis

Publication date: March 2011

The Book of New Responses contains twelve sets and provides short biographies of each composer. The finest sets are by Antony Baldwin, Philip Moore, Ben Parry, Francis Pott and Paul Spicer. They combine fertile musical imagination with good craftsmanship, making them singable (though not always easy) and interesting. Ben Parry’s unpretentious set is an example of how successful relatively simple but well written responses can be. Composed in four parts throughout, it is easy enough to be performed by a good parish choir, but worthy of performance by choirs of cathedral standard.

Alexander Campkin’s set is among the more adventurous with drone-like effects in the lower voices, and more varied textures. Choirs of a high standard will find this creative setting worth exploring. In Andrew Gant’s Pentatonic Responses each singer sings in free tempo, independently of the others, creating pentatonic chord-clusters. The effect is unusual and thought-provoking, since each individual responds to the priest, rather than the choir singing with ‘one voice’. Marcus Sealy’s set was composed for Kingswood School, which probably results in its being the most conventional and simple of those reviewed here. The polished craftsmanship makes Sealy’s Responses perfect for parish or school choirs. The other sets by Simon Biazeck, Daniel Burges, Hilary Campbell and Matthew Wood all have much to recommend them in their different ways.

As indicated, some of these settings are manageable by parish choirs; others require cathedral standard. Some bass lines, particularly those by Baldwin, Burges and Wood, require basses who can descend at least to E flat. Cathedral choirs will particularly welcome this volume and to them it is heartily recommended.

— Christopher Maxim

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