"This whimsically titled debut album from the adventurous Londinium chamber choir explores unaccompanied repertoire of several early 20th Century English composers. “The Gluepot” refers to a London pub called The George; it was nicknamed “the bloody gluepot” by conductor Henry Wood, because many of his musicians seemed to get “stuck” there while en route to rehearsal. In a creative programming coup, Londinium has taken this pub as its point of departure for a celebration of the many composers who were known to frequent the establishment.
Conductor Andrew Griffiths, Londinium’s founding director, has built an enviable career as a conductor of choral, operatic, and orchestral works; and he brings considerable expertise and intellect to this ambitious undertaking. While “the gluepot” was home to such famous composers as John Ireland and Arnold Bax, these figures get relatively short shrift on an album that favors the promotion of more esoteric works. Chief among these is ‘Verses of Love’, a stunning 12-tone piece by Elisabeth Lutyens, the maverick female composer credited with bringing Schoenbergian serialism to England. Lutyens’s writing here is lyrical, evocative, and utterly compelling. The unison tenor vocal lines that emerge from a dissonant aural backdrop are rendered with great care and artistry by the singers. Sopranos and altos sing with a bit more point and straight-tone than some listeners might like; but this approach suits the repertoire perfectly, and the brightness of tone lends clarity and definition to Lutyens’s highly complex musical textures.
Alan Rawsthorne’s ‘Four Seasonal Songs’ are another album highlight, and the choir delivers the composer’s imitative polyphony with precision and sensitivity. Unlike many of his contemporaries, Rawsthorne’s music is essentially polyphonic, and this 1956 collection — given its world premiere recording here — demonstrates an ingenious and highly original musical mind.
Of lesser interest are the seven ‘Songs of Springtime’ by EJ Moeran, written in a nostalgic style and taking Elizabethan texts as their basis. William Walton’s ‘Where does the uttered Music go?’ serves as a welcome contrast to these more conservative pieces. Walton’s characteristically dark, sinuous harmonies gradually build to a swirling climax that showcases the range of Londinium’s 40 singers, as arching upper sopranos give way to lustrous low chords in the other three voices.
The album closes with Arnold Bax’s ‘Mater ora filium’, an 11-minute, double-chorus work that is something of a warhorse in British choral circles. With its eight-part textures, the piece certainly gives the capable singers of Londinium many opportunities to shine — such as the sustained high C held by the sopranos in the middle “Alleluia” section. Still, one can’t help but be slightly disappointed by this choice; for such a bold ensemble, this selection makes a somewhat pat finale. Despite this minor gripe, the ensemble’s debut effort, under Griffiths’s expert direction, is a notable achievement — and one expects to hear even greater accomplishments from Londinium in the future."
Krishan Oberoi, American Record Guide (June 2018)