Precious Things artwork

Precious Things
Choral music by Bernard Hughes

Released: 27 May 2022

Devoted to Bernard Hughes's choral music and programmed in close collaboration between the composer and The Epiphoni Consort, this portrait recording reveals a composer for whom musical style grows naturally out of the provenance of his commissions and their chosen texts.

Himself a wordsmith, text setting and delivery are at the forefront of Hughes’s creative thinking, and Epiphoni, making a name for themselves in recordings of music by living British composers, are ideally suited to the delivery of Hughes’s diverse language, in performances that showcase their trademark luxuriant sound.


sopranoMy favourite piece? Probably the entirety of ‘Precious Things‘ [the set the album is named after] – full of variety and with a powerful message. I love the urgency of ‘Crude’ with its bubbling drama, and the strange otherworldliness of ‘Helium’. The poems have been set so effectively, with such care given to the lyrics.

My favourite piece of cake? Easily the baked goods provided by Amaki that kept us going through recording sessions!
Annie Hamilton, soprano

Abaigh WheatleyEach track on the album is really very unique – part of what made the recording process so enjoyable. Psalm 56 was one of the first pieces we sang through, and its driving, punchy rhythms and use of the text immediately hooked me into Bernard’s writing. The varying moods encapsulated in just one piece, accentuated by the interaction between the lower and upper voices – in perfect unison one minute, taking it in turns to slink in and out of the texture the next – is such a joy for both singer and listener!
Abaigh Wheatley, alto

My favourite piece on the album is I Sing of Love. It is a lengthy piece and took a lot of work to learn and perform, but that effort was totally worth it. The text, from the Song of Songs, is a real favourite of mine and has been set by a host of composers across centuries. But Bernard gave that text a fresh and wholly unsentimental interpretation. The big climax towards the end is really thrilling, and that is followed by a soaring soprano solo bringing it to a serene conclusion.
Graham Kirk, bass

Jess HaigChoosing a favourite track from such a wonderfully varied and pleasing disc is a tough ask, but Jubilate Deo is high up there. Bernard intertwines religious text from Psalm 100 with poetry by Gerard Manley Hopkins, and creates a fantastically rhythmic and exciting piece of music, both for the listener and performer. Between Bernard’s irregular time signatures and rhythms, and the varying call-and-response textures between upper and lower voices, I can’t not dance and move around every time I perform the piece!”
Jess Haig, alto

“My favourite track on the album has to be If We Shadows – the music itself is beautiful, but having one of our members Rosemary talk us through the background of the Shakespeare text and give a new light to the meaning, made singing it really interesting (and beautiful!)”
Charlotte Webb, soprano

The skillful semi-professional singers of Epiphoni give first-rate performances ... bright, clean sound and robust, precise delivery

Clare Stevens, Choir & Organ ★★★★

The Epiphoni Consort occupy a rung near the top of the choral ladder, and are well directed by Tim Reader. Balance, intonation, clarity are so strong here, one almost takes all that for granted. 

The Arts Desk, Review of Precious Things

"A sparkling recording … brimful with a wide variety of mood and texture … a superb job"

Malcolm Riley, Gramophone

"Near ideal … terrific attention to the words. Not only is there clarity of diction, but the words actually mean something."

Planet Hugill, Review of Precious Things ★★★★

The strongest feature here is that the music seems ideally matched to the talents of the Epiphoni Consort … [whose] talents come close to the professional end of the [amateur/professional] dichotomy.

James Manheim, AllMusic ★★★★

"Engagingly sung … simple and sublime … from quiet luxuriance to seductive exuberance.

The Scotsman, Review of Precious Things ★★★★

There is a real X factor here that makes this one of the most satisfying choral releases of 2022.

James Manheim, AllMusic ★★★★

Choral music as we rarely hear it - generous, light-footed, surprising. I hope these pieces might be heard more often

Judith Weir

Original, adventurous but immediate, it can be whimsical and amusing, but also incredibly moving... emotionally engaging, really well written, idiomatic, and loads of really inventive yet immediate ideas, that really grab you and make you want to listen.

Cheryl Frances-Hoad, Reviewing Precious Things on First, last, anything