The Organist’s Review
Issue: August 2011
This volume is divided into three sections: Advent is allotted four pieces, Nativity gets the lion’s share, Epiphany just one. Contrary to the subtitle not all the settings are lullabies. Although this is essentially an anthology of contemporary music, three little-known Renaissance pieces are included: two by de Manchicourt (c. 1510–64) and one by Pygott (1485–1549). Rather surprisingly, there are no editorial notes for these pieces. The only other piece by a composer from the past is A Lullaby by Finzi, also published by Peters Edition.
The contemporary composers whose music is featured include both established names and up-and-coming ones. Their contributions range in style from the conventional arrangement by Andrew Earis (b. 1976) of Why, impious Herod? To Sleep, my dreaming one by Hilary Campbell (b. 1983): a piece that makes much use o both harmonic and melodic tones and semitones —something that most choirs find challenging. In the Advent section are two ‘faux-bourdon’-style Magnificats: one in four parts by Trevor Ling, the other in eight by David Bevan (b. 1951). One of the best works is a setting of Lullay, my liking by Francis Pott (also published by Novello). Commissioned for the St John’s College, Cambridge, 2004 Advent Carol Services, it contains a satisfying variety of textures and exploits dissonance effectively. It is, however, a piece by the youngest composer, Alexander Campkin (b.1984) that will probably prove the book’s greatest asset —indeed, it borrows its title. Sleep, Holy Babe is in four parts throughout, sets lovely words and is within the grasp of most church choirs.
The majority of pieces in the collection are scored for SATB, often with divisions, and are to be sung a cappella. A small number are accompanied, one by harp. All of the pieces are within the capabilities of good chamber/parish choirs and cathedral choirs.
— Christopher Maxim
Choir and Organ Magazine
Issue: November/December 2010
Tom Shorter’s new independent publishing venture, Shorter House, is hallmarked by rare degrees of care and attention to content and presentation. Sleep, Holy Babe (£9.95), an anthology forged entirely of Christmas lullabies, spans a wide repertoire arc from music by Cardinal Wolsey’s choirmaster, Richard Pygott, to five specially commissioned works by young British or British-based composers. Don’t be put off by Shorter’s lullaby label; in fact, the stylistic mix and creative approach applied to the genre by composers as diverse as Finzi, Catherine Kontz and David Bevan should hold an audience for at least half or even a full concert programme.
— Andrew Stewart
Issue: Autumn 2010
These two publications will be welcomed by enterprising choirs for the opportunities they represent to expand their repertoire in two genres of church music that quickly become tired through overexposure. The collection of Lullabies is a series of pieces reflecting upon the Nativity mainly by contemporary composers, through Pierre de Manchicourt and Richard Pygott from the 16th century are included. The music varies in texture from three to eight parts, with and without organ, and in difficulty too, so that virtually all choirs will profit from the collection. As the theme is the actual birth (except for some Advent and Epiphany items) it probably isn’t possible to devise a complete carol service from this book alone, but it offers a fresh store of pieces and in fact many of them are not overtly ecclesiastical so could be used in a secular context such as Finzi’s arrangement of a Greek folksong...
(Read the rest of this review, discussing The Book of New Responses.)
— Curtis Rogers
Classical Music Magazine
Issue: 20 November 2010
Sleep, Holy Babe surveys the church seasons of Advent, Christmas and Epiphany, and ranges from the old (two works by Pierre de Manchicourt and Richard Pygott’s enduring Quid petis, o fili?) to the new (Hilary Campbell and Alexander Campkin, winners of second and third prize respectively in the 2010 Musica Sacra International Composers Competition, are both in their twenties). The book contains a fascinating variety of works, with something for choirs of all abilities: Emma Gibbin’s lively ‘The Virgin Mary bore a child’ is a real joy to sing, and the sparse textures of John Duggan’s ‘O Babe born bare’ will live long in the memory of any listener. For choral directors still planning their Christmas menu, Catherine Kontz’s ‘In your father’s care’, scored for two sopranos and one alto with harp or piano accompaniment would make a perfect companion to Britten’s Ceremony of Carols. (Read this missing paragraph, reviewing The Book of New Responses.)
In 2011, Shorter House will follow up it’s début publications with a book of new settings of canticles for Evensong, the Magnificat and Nunc Dimittis, featuring many of the composers featured in Sleep, Holy Babe and The Book of New Responses, as well as some younger and more up-coming names, This will come at the same time as their market-presence is boosted by distribution in the USA and Canada - auspicious beginnings for a worthy venture, and I look forward to future Shorter House volumes with impatience and excitement.
— Adrian Horsewood
Issue: February/March 2011
5 Stars: Music publishing company Shorter House launched in September 2010 with two anthologies. The Book of New Responses and Sleep, Holy Babe alongside a bash at Charterhouse Square. The brainchild of Tom Shorter, the collections are a useful addition to the British choral music canon. Shorter House collects a real mix of styles from quite diverse composers. Sleep, Holy Babe is an eclectic collection of 17 titles based on themes of the Nativity and the Lullaby, and features five brand new commissions, a couple of rarities and some lesser-known works from the likes of Gerald Finzi and Jonathan Rathbone... Of the Christmas pieces, Rathbone’s predictable but pleasing Sing Lullaby is one I shall be pushing to sing next Christmas - and the one that already sounds like it’s part of the standard set. While John Duggan’s O Babe Born Bare (for TTB) is clashy and sublime, it’s of no use to me as I’m an alto. (Note from Shorter House; O Babe Born Bare is available in SSA) This is a really classy and timely edition, one that will surely be in circulation for a few years.
— Hazel Davis