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John Quinn
MusicWeb International, February 2009

All the pieces on the programme were written in response to specific commissions, mostly from churches, the majority of which seem to be in New England, or from conductors. That may account for the accessible nature of the writing… The Missa Brevis, for example, is a succinct setting, which contains a rather beautiful ‘Lamb of God’. The Mass sounds well here and I should think it works well in a liturgical context. I suggest that the Evening Canticles, placed at the very end of the programme, are also effective liturgical items. I think I prefer Cooman’s slow music—of which there’s quite a bit in this recital—to his faster pieces… His slow music does have a sincerity and directness of expression that’s effective. One such piece is The Lamp of Charity. Also worthy of citation are the slow, mysterious In The Beginning Was the Word and Prayer of Julian of Norwich, which is grave and rather lovely.

In summary, my feeling is that this music would be excellent in the context of church services and that any of these pieces would be a welcome addition to the repertoire of any church choir of a reasonable standard of accomplishment…The performances by the Royal Holloway choir are excellent—I especially admire the choir’s blend and their clear, fresh sound. They are sympathetically recorded and the engineers achieve a good balance between the choir and the accomplished organ playing of Samuel Rathbone.

Arthur S Leonard, December 2008

The recording companies have been discovering a young musical compositional phenomenon by the name of Carson Cooman (born 1982).  Not yet thirty, this prolific composer has produced such an enormous quantity of music, with opus numbers approaching at least 700 (the highest opus number on this new Naxos recording of his sacred music is 683, on a piece written in 2006), that one may immediately be suspicious about quality.  (On top of this, he recently began reviewing recordings for Fanfare Magazine - where does he find the time?)  Is this really a new Mozart who can churn the stuff out at a consistently high level of technique and inspiration?

The answer may be yes… on a variety of discs in a variety of formats, everything I have heard is really, really good.

I purchased this Naxos recording by Rupert Gough and his Choir of Royal Holloway from the University of London (England) in pursuit of my specialized psalms collection, since it includes a splendid setting of Psalm 66 (actually, selected verses from same), running about 3 ½ minutes.  But this is an extraordinarily well-filled disc, running in total to almost 80 minutes, the actual maximum capacity for which the compact disc was designed, and there was nothing on this disk that I would call less than excellent.

What really marks Cooman's music, in whatever medium, is that he is an ardent communicator.  Not for him the abstruse modernisms that would put off the less than adventurous listener.  He is solidly tonal, harmonically relatively conservative, concerned to come up with recognizable melodies, interesting harmonic progressions.  When setting text, he seeks to match the mood and style of the music to the words in a way that the music enhances the expression.  His organ writing is knowing and idiomatic, as one would expect from somebody whose activities include being a concert-quality organist. 

Apparently his sacred music has really caught on with the primary consumers of such material —church choirs.  According to the notes in this splendidly performed and engineered disc, most of the music was commissioned for particular groups and/or occasions.  Included are a brief mass, a Magnificat and Nunc Dimittis sequence, lots of hyms, a suite of new Christmas carols...  In short, any choir director looking for new listener-friendly material that his or her singers will enjoy performing should be exploring this disc if they haven't already discovered Cooman's music… All the music on this disc—24 individual movements—was produced over the past decade, so it includes works from his late teens to his mid 20s.

American Record Guide, November 2008

In his mid-20s and already the author of over 600 works, Carson Cooman writes music the way the rest of us write checks. But however facile his process, there’s personality to his writing—which explains why university choirs and church ensembles are lining up in droves to commission his works. Cooman is American, but his results are generally in line with the British choral tradition.

A few of the pieces here are genuinely inspired, many of them sound like they’d be a pleasure to sing, and none of them is bad. Of special note are the zippy ‘Adam Lay Ybounden’ that opens the program; ‘Cosmic Prayer’ and ‘Do You Know the Song’ (the latter from the Christmas Triptych), which recall the devout radiance of Morten Lauridsen’s writing; and an astute, Credo-less Missa Brevis. I also admire his ‘Easter Triumph!’, which juxtaposes heady exuberance over the resurrection with the ‘Victimae Paschali Laudes’ chant, and his Magnificat & Nunc Dimittis, which kicks up its heels in style before drawing the program to a prayerful close.

The program is front-loaded, with the catchiest stuff placed in the first 50 minutes. Things get a mite snoozy between the Mass and the Magnificat. The singers of Royal Holloway bring the music alive with commendable brio, though the straight, hard tone of the soprano section becomes wearing. I’d have liked more warmth from them—and from the Naxos engineers. Whatever the quibbles, Carson Cooman seems to be on his way to becoming a composer most singers will encounter at some point, so here’s a worthwhile, reasonably priced opportunity to get to know him.

Victor Hill, Ph.D.
The Journal of the Association of Anglican Musicians, June 2008

Somewhat more than half of the works on this recording were reviewed as choral music by Alan Lewis in the April issue of this Journal. This CD may likewise assist readers in exploring the music of this prolific young (b.1982) composer. Since Alan ably described those various pieces in some detail, my review concentrates on the other selections on the disc.

O Perfect Life of Love is a meditative piece for Lent or, in particular, for Holy Week; its lean texture evokes the desolation of the "It is finished," yet the anthem ends in a promise that "my love and service [shall] be my answer to your love." The notes are not difficult, but polishing might take some rehearsal time. The Way, the Truth, the Life sets a text of W.H. Auden (not printed in the liner, perhaps because of copyright considerations). The three sections make attractive use of soloists, choir and organ to move through the three stanzas to a brilliant conclusion. A fine text by Thomas H. Troeger on the moving of the Spirit has a setting first meditative, then celebratory. Like some other works on the disc, the Missa brevis (in English, without Credo was critten for St. Peter's Episcopal Church in Cambridge, Massachusetts; with its judicious variety of styles, it would be a fine basis for a choral Eucharist. The first Pentecost (Acts 2) is movingly set as an anthem mixing unison and chordal writing in the narrative, then exploding with considerable vigor when the Spirit is poured out. The idiom is thoroughly accessible to listeners, but interesting enough to keep the choir involved. Finally, a very brief Prayer of Julian of Norwich, mellifluously set, would be especially effective at a sung Compline.

Rupert Gough and his 23-voice choir give dedicated and polished performances, Samuel Rathbone is a sympathetic and accomplished organist, and the sound is faithful throughout. The liner provides notes, most texts, and biographies. Like Alan, I had not known Cooman's work (though one of my Boston friends said, "Of course!") and was happy to discover this fine young talent.

Walter Simmons
Fanfare, May 2008

The performances heard on this recording are beautifully and meticulously shaped, making the best possible impression for the music. Although an English choir is featured, with the idiosyncrasies of that musical sub-culture clearly evident, Cooman is very much an American composer, who sees himself as contributing to a national tradition. In light of the music’s somewhat limited expressive range, the generously filled CD is probably best enjoyed in smaller doses. © 2008 Fanfare Read complete review

David Denton
David's Review Corner, February 2008

Carson Cooman is still in his twenty-fifth year, yet has clocked up over six hundred compositions while following a very active career as an outstanding North American concert organist. He is now highly popular among choirs for his instantly engaging sacred works, their content equally rewarding to the performer as to the listener. In character it owes much to the modern English choral tradition, John Rutter being an obvious influence, the feel of the music more secular than sacred. It is a character highlighted by the performances of the Choir of Royal Holloway, University of London, an excellently groomed ensemble whose precise intonation captures those crunchy harmonies that bring a welcome brackishness. Like Rutter, Cooman’s style also relies on catchy rhythms, and like his English counterpart is adept at creating catchy carols as we hear in An American Christmas Triptych. The most extensive score comes in the four sections of the Missa Brevis dating from 2004, and here he moves to a more reverential style that is to return in the disc’s final tracks, Magnificat and Nunc Dimittis.The choir numbers twenty mixed male and female members who work at the University as Choral Scholars, Royal Holloway being better known as one of the UK’s top intensive research universities. It is thankfully devoid of those hooty sopranos that are currently fashionable in British choirs, and is directed by Robert Gough who largely mirrors Cooman as a diverse musician who is best known as an organist and harpsichordist. The final stamp of approval comes with the disc’s producer also being the composer, but do play it above your normal listening level.

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