James Whitbourn. Courtesy of James Whitbourn
It was Covid-19 that brought me to the music of the composer James Whitbourn. I was looking forward to hearing Annelies, his 75-minute work that features extracts from Anne Frank’s The Diary of a Young Girl. I was to close the 2019-2010 season of the Ottawa Choral Society. And then all public performances came to an abrupt, non-negotiable Covidian close.
In preparation for that concert (now, optimistically, rescheduled in the choir’s 2020-2021 season), I started listening to Whitbourn’s other music and discovered a composer who writes startlingly powerful vocal music with huge chords, wonderful melodies, floating suspensions, and sudden dramatic dynamic shifts.