Whispers of Heavenly Death is a new CD of song settings by Scott Perkins. It’s a generously filled disk with nine works amounting to some 33 tracks. First up are five Walt Whitman poems from the eponymous collection. The settings are sparse but quite varied with legato vocal lines handled nicely by the dark toned mezzo Julia Mintzner. Accompaniment, as on the rest of the disk, is by Eric Trudel.
Six settings from the Holy Sonnets of John Donne follow sung by soprano Jamie Jordan. The music here is spikier and set much higher. It suits Jordan’s light, bright soprano. My favourite tracks are next; four settings of riddles from the Exeter codex sung by baritone Dashon Burton. They are very varied. Ic eom ƿunderlicu ƿiht is jerky and set very high for baritone with arpeggio accompaniment. Moððe ƿord fræt is very rhythmic while Ic ᵹefræᵹn for hæleþum is in a very beautiful, liturgical, vein sounding more medieval than the rest. Ƿrætlic honᵹað gets perhaps the only blues setting an Old English text has ever got! The very short Ƿundor ƿearð on ƿeᵹe is just plain weird. Plenty here for any Old English geek.
Four songs from the Dogen Zenji, sung by tenor Zachary Wilder, get long, lyrical vocal lines with appropriately sparse piano part. There are four short cycles; one for each season, in a more conventional vein though the four songs of Soir d’hiver are quite heavy and meditative. The four seasons are taken respectively by Wilder, Jordan, Burton (with Helen Park on flute) and Mintzner.
It’s a very worthwhile album showing off Perkins range as a composer nicely. The recording, made in June, July and November 2017 at Firehouse 12 in New Haven, is clear and well balanced. The accompanying booklet comes with full texts.