Some composers write for all genres of classical music -- orchestral, chamber, solo instrument, vocal, choral, etc. Some choose to specialize -- like Chopin for piano music, and UK composer Andrew Carter for choral music. Carter, this week's subject of the Consonant Classical Challenge has been involved with the singing, conducting, and composing of choral works since he was a young man.
His music continues the English choral traditions. Many of his works are for mixed choruses of boys and men, a uniquely English sound. While Carter does employ some advanced harmonies in his work, they're still triadic in structure, giving the ear a firm foundation. Carter's melodies flow naturally, taking full advantage of choral singing technique rather than discarding it for unusual sounds.
The Agnus Dei from Andrew Carter's Missa Sancti Pauli shows the composer at his finest.The work was written for the tercentenary celebration of St. Paul's Cathedral. While the structure draws on the rich heritage of the English choral school, the harmony moves in subtly different directions making the work standout as something original.
The Magnificat from the Californian Canticles is another representative work. Tradition text, set in a seemingly tradition fashion -- unless one listens closely. The harmonies, while tonal, mark this as a late 20th-Century work.
As with many choral masters, Andrew Carter is also an accomplished organist. His Toccata on Veni Emmanuel shows both the quality of his contrapuntal inventiveness, and the level of his technical mastery of the instrument.
When it comes to contemporary choral music, there seem to be just two names conductors know -- John Rutter (CCC 020) and Eric Whitaker (CCC 021). Andrew Carter deserves to be added to that list -- at least on this side of the Atlantic. (His Advent and Christmas compositions are often performed in Lessons and Carols services in the UK) Personally, I'd really like to hear his organ concerto sometime.
Andrew Carter's Christmas Carols
The Music of Andrew Carter