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Will Todd - MASS IN BLUE

Many choirs have tackled Mass in Blue in its short history, and it has become a staple of the “lighter” choral repertoire. Choral jazz itself is a hard thing to define – modern British composers such as John Rutter and Bob Chilcott have woven jazz into their musical styles for many years, yet to find a choral piece that puts jazz style front and centre, as with Will Todd's Mass in Blue, is a surprisingly rare thing. After a very successful concert performance in June 2015, I chose to present it here, as then, in the context of some of the jazz standards that are the fabric of the musical world that Mass in Blue inhabits.


Joanna, Alexander and I have all been lucky to count Ward Swingle as a mentor and friend during our time in The Swingle Singers, and so I jumped at the opportunity to do some of Ward’s big band arrangements, from the group’s 1979 album Skyliner, with a choir. Rarely tackled due to its complexity (the arrangement is scored for no less than 13 voices, expertly imitating the sax, trumpet and trombone sections of a big band, with lyrics by Jon Hendricks), Ward’s arrangement of Back Bay Shuffle was an instant hit with the choir! Alongside one of Alexander’s ingenious Great American Songbook arrangements, originally written for the King’s Singers, I wanted to pay tribute to one more of the great vocal jazz groups, New York Voices, with Darmon Meader’s effortlessly cool reimagining of On a clear day, plus a beautiful a cappella arrangement by Jamey Ray of the Gershwin classic, Someone to watch over me.

All these standards, and the legacy of vocal jazz that they have inspired, form the backdrop for Mass in Blue, bringing Nonsuch Singers a world away from the classical world that we normally inhabit and into the realm of close-harmony singing, using my own background in the Swingle Singers to mould the choir’s sound into that of a close-miked jazz choir, presenting the Mass as it has never been heard on CD before. It is a huge privilege to work alongside my own predecessor as Musical Director of the Swingle Singers, Joanna Forbes L’Estrange, and the multi-talented performer and producer Alexander L’Estrange, as well as their amazing trio, to bring this wonderful piece to life.

Tom Bullard - Director

October 2018

Videographer - Tony Price 


Track listing

Mass in Blue

Will Todd

On a Clear Day

Lyrics Alan Jay Lerner

Music Burton Lane, Arr. Darmon Meader

Back Bay Shuffle

Composed McCrea/Shaw

Arr. Ward Swingle

Love Walked In

Composed George & Ira Gershwin

Arr. Ward Swingle

Someone to Watch Over Me

Music & Lyrics George & Ira Gershwin

Arr. Jamey Ray

How do you keep the music playing?

Lyrics Alan & Marilyn Bergman

Music Michel Legrand

Arr. Alexander L'Estrange

Li'l Darlin'

Music & Lyrics Hendricks/Hefti

Arr. Ward Swingle

Beyond the sea

Music & Lyrics Jack Lawrence &

Charles Trenet

Arr. for The Kings Singers by

Alexander L'Estrange

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