John Rutter talks about how a confirmed agnostic became immersed in a world of churches and choral paeans of praise. He recalls his gentle childhood, his doodlings at an old upright piano which was only there because the previous occupants couldn’t get it out of the door. He reflects on why he has never written a musical when his love of the genre and his ear for a good tune dictated he should. And on that note, what it was like to be a tunesmith at a time when it was so deeply unfashionable to be one.
The immensely popular choral composer had his first carol – the Shepherd’s Pipe Carol – published when he was still a teenager and went on to compose more than two dozen others. The royalties got bigger and so did the commissions. His reputation quickly spread Stateside where he still conducts every year at Carnegie Hall in New York. His latest recording for Naxos brings together three large-scale compositions spanning almost two decades. His Gloria was a milestone for him, the first of his pieces to open doors in America. Magnificat is a joyous setting, a kind of Latin American fiesta with “hit” numbers for soprano gently drawing sustenance from the world of musical theatre, and Te Deum springs its own big hymnic surprise at the close.