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PANTA RHEI, COOPE, BOYES & SIMPSON "Passchendaele Suite"
No Masters NMCD10

Panta Rhei are an accomplished octet of Belgian instrumentalists whose collaboration with local a cappella heroes Barry Coope, Jim ("Glory") Boyes and Lester Simpson gave rise to the Peace Concerts held around First World War battlefields and cemeteries over the last few years. NMCD10 gives us studio versions of what must have been, judging by eyewitness reports and the photos and notes in the lavish accompanying booklet, deeply significant and moving musical events.

Even with a total playing time over fifty minutes, the album has to be a considerable distillation of the concerts. This is not necessarily a bad thing - one does not have to deal with travel arrangements, weather, variable acoustics and other peripherals that makes a live performance what it is - just place the shiny thing in the slidey thing and press the buttoney thing, and if you need the toilet halfway through never fear - the pausey thing will ensure that you don't miss a note!

Because not missing a note is important, in common with every other recording that CBS have been involved with, the atmosphere of care and attention to detail is as apparent as is the creation of vast and sweeping soundscapes. They sing as a trio (John Tams' "Lay Me Low" is belted straight and true out of the ground) or as individual members (the album's high points occur when C, B and S each do solos with various members of Panta Rhei). The outstanding instrumental pieces explore the international nature of the bagpipe in particular, musicians in general, and reach a stunning climax with J.S. Bach's "Largo", leaving Boyes' "The New Jerusalem" to bring proceedings to a highly satisfactory close.

The eleven artistes who appear on this record sing and play their hearts out for a cause which they know to be true. Neither we, nor those that follow us, must be allowed to forget the enormity of what happened on those few square miles during those four short years (though for some they were longer than eternity). "The Passchendaele Suite" has enough humanity, dignity and downright great music to prove equal to the task.

Alan Rose

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This album was reviewed in Issue 26 of The Living Tradition magazine.