There’s a deliberate question mark in the title of Paul Smith’s ambitious and brilliant new project Renewal? featuring VOCES8and APOLLO5 and guest artists. Using texts from poets living and dead, he invites us to join him on a journey traversing the darkness of the soul before the teachings of the Apostles, through silence and contemplation to changing seasons and the possibility of renewal (with a question mark). It is very much a concept album for our troubled times with no pat answers but several possible ways the story can end – it is up to you.


Smith’s own compositions sit alongside three new works by English composer Donna McKevitt and three great 20th-century masterpieces. The bold inclusion of John Cage’s 4’33” naturally opens the Silence middle section while Smith’s own response, Listen , features Van Morrison collaborator percussionist Teena Lyle’s Tibetan singing bowls and the choristers humming random notes based on the Fibonacci sequence.

Underpinning the album are two major works...