© 2024 Connecticut Public

FCC Public Inspection Files:
WPKT · WRLI-FM · WEDW-FM · Public Files Contact
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

James Whitbourn's Celestial Sounds


English composer James Whitbourn, born in 1963, is part of a new generation of musicians who are no longer bound to the notion that contemporary music needs to challenge the listener with difficulty.

His new CD is called Luminosity, and it includes the choral piece A Prayer of Desmond Tutu. Tutu himself speaks on the recording.

One of the most interesting aspects of this piece is the composer's combination of classical choral style with elements of African music, heard especially in the percussion.

But Whitbourn isn't stitching these styles together in some artificial attempt at multiculturalism. Instead, his combination of different styles flows naturally. I call this music "pancultural." The composer hears styles usually perceived as different as one broad tradition. Most important, the music sounds authentic, honest and not the least bit contrived.

"Luminosity" is the title work of the CD. At the outset, a musical drone creates an archaic sense of time in which the chorus sings. A solo viola plays throughout this work, inflected by the melodic style of the Indian sitar.

This album is extraordinary. It expands the experience of classical music beyond the edges of the traditional map of classical styles. The word "luminosity" describes the nature of celestial light, and the music of composer James Whitbourn is a celebration of that light -- peaceful, radiant and clear.

Copyright 2022 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Tom Manoff
Composer and author Tom Manoff has been the classical music critic for NPR's All Things Considered since 1985.

Stand up for civility

This news story is funded in large part by Connecticut Public’s Members — listeners, viewers, and readers like you who value fact-based journalism and trustworthy information.

We hope their support inspires you to donate so that we can continue telling stories that inform, educate, and inspire you and your neighbors. As a community-supported public media service, Connecticut Public has relied on donor support for more than 50 years.

Your donation today will allow us to continue this work on your behalf. Give today at any amount and join the 50,000 members who are building a better—and more civil—Connecticut to live, work, and play.