Eric Whitacre, who we featured last week in the Consonant Classical Challenge, might be considered this generation's John Rutter. Like Whitacre, Rutter is primarily a choral composer, and has always been concerned about writing music that's accessible both to the performer and audience.
His Suite Antique for flute, harpsichord and chamber orchestra has the signature Rutter trademarks. The melodies and harmonies borrow from pop music (in the same way that Leroy Anderson did). But this is music that wouldn't work well as a three-minute pop song. Listen especially to the plaintive quality of the melody. Who wouldn't find such composition appealing?
A better example, though, might be his "Magnificat." The essential Britishness that pervades the music of Ralph Vaughan Williams and Gustav Holst can also be found in Rutter. Perhaps it's the choral tradition.
Because it's really in choral music that Rutter shines. And many professional, church, and amateur choirs agree.
While some might consider John Rutter a composer of lighter music, there's nothing wrong with that. And there should be a place for it on most musical programs. I'd like to see concert-goers discover what choristers have known for years.
Requiem & Magnificat/Rutter, Cambridge Singers
John Rutter: Distant Land, The Orchestral Collection
Gloria: The Sacred Music of John Rutter