If there is an afterlife what might it be like? In their sacred music composers have, indirectly, suggested some answers.
The Requiems of Mozart and Verdi evoke worlds of terror and transcendent bliss. John Rutter's Requiem, like that of Faure's which it resembles, is a much cosier vision. There are no sublime landscapes and the sulphurous fires of judgment day have been abolished. After the opening timpani roll, it is very much sweetness and light all the way.
The second movement, with its impassioned cello solo, is as dark as the work gets. The soaring Pie Jesu, well sung by soprano Joanne Lunn, is purity itself, lacking the sensual quality that makes Faure's version so enchanting. The work is soothing, too soothing for my taste, a sort of Chill-Out Requiem. The Cambridge Singers were first rate and the English Chamber Orchestra, conducted by Rutter, didn't have much to do but did it perfectly; in the same way that they performed Ravel's Pavane pour une infante défunte.
Rutter's Mass of the Children is on a larger scale, with adult and children's choir, baritone and soprano soloists plus trumpets and some extra percussion. This expansion of forces gives it more musical variety than the Requiem but the predominant sentiment and its expression remain the same.
Lunn and baritone Jeremy Huw Williams were both excellent and the City of Birmingham Symphony Youth Chorus deserved their tremendous cheer for their brightness and vivacity. Clad in pink, the colour of seaside rock, they sang music just as sweet but I found Rutter's setting of William Blake's Little Lamb too cloying.