Press & reviews

All three of the works on this recording of choral music by David Lancaster are distinctive, unique, even. The middle work is a richly coloured setting of the Magnificat. Unlike the other two larger works, Magnificat is, of course, a well-established evensong canticle. However, Lancaster’s setting is explorative. The well-known words provide a firm foundation, but his musical lines and harmonies are like a sunlit stained-glass window. Glowing colours tell a story way beyond what is depicted by the familiar words.

The other two pieces are extraordinary, particularly in their subject matter. Apocalypse uses a text based upon a middle English poem Pricke of Conscience. It is also inspired by 15 panels in All Saints Church in North Street York, depicting the end of the world. Lancaster himself describes his piece as ‘one’s own disaster movie’.

At the Edge of the World was also inspired by something regarding the history of All Saints Church. This is the story of Emma Raughton, an anchoress, who lived in two small rooms in that church in the 14th century. The text for this work comes from three different sources, a modern poem by York based writer Abi Curtis, Ancrene Wisse, described as a ‘Guide for Anchoresses’ and in Latin, the lines of the Magnificat. The three sources are interspersed and interwoven throughout the work.

The chorus Ex Corde are amazing. Lancaster’s music requires perfect tuning and precise a cappella singing. In Apocalypse we pass through the fifteen days to the end of the world, often going back and forth through the days. Luminous harmonies, soaring melismas sung by Anna Snow and two other sopranos are blended with whispers, sprechstimme and spoken words from members of the chorus. This can sometimes seem chaotic but is a deliberate expressive technique used by the composer for this alarming subject.

In At the Edge of the World texts are not followed precisely, the words are an inspiration. We follow Emma Raughton to the end of her life. The result is quite moving. Male and female singers and soloist Anna Snow are used with colour and rich expressiveness to lead us into a world which I had never before imagined could exist. It was a revelation!

Alan Cooper, British Music Society

David Lancaster is based in York and his wonderfully titled Hell's Bells Bagatelles, for clarinet, violin, cello and piano (2022) was influenced by the pealing and tolling sounds of the city's Minster bells and the change ringing patterns used by bell ringers. Due in part, perhaps, to the resounding nature of its source of inspiration, Hell's Bells Bagatelles was by far the most aptly festive and jubilant of all the items scheduled in this avowedly celebratory event. Lifting the audience's spirits with a welcome burst of good cheer, David Lancaster's short pieces ranged from classical elegance and tango-like playfulness to punchy rhythmic drive. It was rewarded with a first performance of heart and attention to detail by the Gemini Players.

Paul Conway, Musical Opinion

After a gentle introduction positing ruminative, widely spaced woodwind phrases, the main section of Au Lapin Agile was quick and lively, driven by fleet, hocketing rhythms. After a climax was reached, the measured phrases from the opening returned to close in an atmosphere of serene stillness. The Lapins presented a relaxed and flowing account of this finely wrought, satisfyingly well-balanced score.

Paul Conway, Musical Opinion

Fell was an impressive piece - distinctive, memorable and extremely well written for the forces involved.

Steve Crowther,

[Gently, for SATB choir] is a work of considerable sophistication and depth. Musically sophisticated, the extraordinary fleeting harmonic clashes, which might sound quite dissonant on certain combinations of instruments, are here to be savoured.

David Ashworth, New Music Cafe

Song of Light by David Lancaster is a different matter altogether. Juxtaposed verses from Isaiah and St John's Gospel provide an ideal text for lilting phrases […] with delicious harmonic shifts at the ends of those phrases. The delicate accompaniment is perfectly judged. In this anthem the composer has built a lovely little house from very few bricks.

Jeremy Jackman, Choir & Organ

Contemporary pieces written specifically for saxophone quartet both wowed and enchanted. They included David Lancaster’s Swan, with its serene soprano voice floating above a sub-marine tenor and baritone.

John Hargreaves, blog

David Lancaster's Angelus was inspired by a poem of the same name by Bret Harte that features 'bells of the past, whose long-forgotten music still fills the wide expanse'. This introspective, directly communicative music perfectly captures confinement's slow passage of time.

Paul Conway, Musical Opinion

David Lancaster…used the difficult medium with bold ingenuity. 

John Martin, The Guardian

Echoes from a Phantom City for flute, viola, and harp is an intriguingly different conception — a grave little processional of interacting musical images, somehow much more imposing than its small dimensions and gentle scoring would imply. 

Malcolm Hayes, Tempo

David Lancaster’s cleverly-planned Six Downie Nocturnes…combined a deep melancholy with evanescent bursts of inspiration.

Martin Dreyer, York Press

David Lancaster’s intriguing Bliss, to words from an old English carol, brought an enigmatic dissonance to its title word and omens of the Passion to “in excelsis gloria”.

Martin Dreyer, York Press

Long melancholic lines were tastefully placed with more rhythmic material in this heartfelt piece. This was the highlight of the evening.

Martin Scheuregger, York Press

What carved a more specific profile and won the laurels was David Lancaster's Ricercare...a significant piece. His command of brass vocabulary is broad but beautifully precise - a genuinely idiomatic piece of work.

Michael John White, The Independent

David Lancaster’s After Ophelia was an intensely dramatic piece, well constructed, and given an absorbing, thoughtful performance. 

Michael Tumelty, The Scotsman

David Lancaster’s Snow / Dance took Debussy’s The Snow is Dancing as its source material.  The resulting score wove a series of intricate variants on the original material rather than departing too far from the source.  Lancaster’s own idiom eventually came into focus but the transition was effected subtly and with considerable panache.  In the upper reaches of the keyboard and sounding like a distant chiming of bells, the final section was especially evocative.

Paul Conway, Musical Opinion

Lancaster’s piece was one of nobly fashioned melodies becoming fractured and frenzied, then quiet in portrayal of madness and death. 

Paul Griffiths, The Times

The clarinet and piano duo … radiated a consistent brightness in David Lancaster’s punchily spirited, tough Seconds into Infinity. 

Stephen Pettitt, The Times

David Lancaster’s Swan was a very impressive work. The opening had a mysterious, almost elemental sound that was very distinctive. The transition to a funky, driven last section was as pleasing as it was unexpected.

York Mix