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According to Adomnan, Columba’s biographer and successor as Abbot of Iona, the saint had a powerful voice that carried across open water. This remarkable music carries across time and space, linking the Ireland of the sixth and seventh centuries to Rome and its Continental outposts, to the slightly later communities at Lindisfarne and Inchcolm, and forward into a Church which remained strikingly different, in observance and music, from the centralised Roman model. The Gonville and Caius choir inhabits this repertoire confidently; but it is the presence of Barnaby Brown, a distinguished scholar of the music, that makes the recording special and deeply atmospheric, with echoes of pagan ever-present conflict and threat, and a westering sense of destiny all at work simultaneously. What might have been a drab bit of set-dressing for a museum installation or television docu- mentary emerges as a full-blown work of art.

BRIAN MORTON Read the full review on Agora Classica

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