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How can I keep from Singing?
Gabriel FAURÉ (1845-1924)
Pie Jesu
(Requiem) [3.25]
John RUTTER (b. 1945)
For the beauty of the earth
Hubert PARRY (1848-1918)
Long since in Egypt’s plenteous land
(Judith) [4.45]
Ralph VAUGHAN WILLIAMS (1872–1958)
The Call (Five Mystical Songs) [2.21]
Arthur SULLIVAN (1842-1900)
The Lost Chord
Stephen OLIVER (1950-1992)
How blest are they
Arr. John SCOTT (b. 1956)
Like a mighty river flowing [3.03]
George Frideric HANDEL (1685–1759)
Let the bright seraphim (Samson) [6.42]
Arr. John SCOTT(b. 1956)
The Ash Grove
James Leith Macbeth BAIN, arr. Gordon JACOB (1895-1984)
The Lord’s my shepherd
Ralph VAUGHAN WILLIAMS (1872–1958), arr. Julius HARRISON (1885–1963)
Linden Lea [3.07]
Arr. John SCOTT (b. 1956)
Annie Laurie [2.06]
Robert LOWRY (1826-1899), arr. John SCOTT (b. 1956)
How can I keep from singing?
Felix MENDELSSOHN (1809-1847)
Lift thine eyes (Elijah) [2.19]
Mark BLATCHLY (b. 1960)
For the Fallen
John RUTTER (b. 1945)
A Gaelic Blessing
Crispian Steele-Perkins (trumpet)
Andrew Lucas (organ)
Richard Moorhouse(organ)
Choristers of St. Paul’s Cathedral
City of London Sinfonia/John Scott
rec. St. Paul’s Cathedral, London, CTS Studios, Wembley, 15-17 July 1996. DDD

EMI CLASSICS FOR PLEASURE 0948 3 75942 2 3 [59.55]


The boy trebles at a Cathedral like St. Paul’s have a very active musical life. In addition to the normal round of services sung with adult altos, tenors and basses, there are also occasions when the trebles perform on their own. To this end, the choir has built up a repertoire of suitable pieces for trebles alone. 

This 1996 recording, with the choir directed by John Scott, displays the trebles in a programme of pieces either specially written for treble voices or arranged from other material. The result is a programme that is most definitely about the treble voice.

You might not always like all of the material on the disc and, more importantly, the various arrangements might not appeal, but there is no denying the superb quality of the treble voices.

The opening number, the Pie Jesu from Faure’s Requiem, is beautifully sung by soloist Anthony Way. I found it a little slow for my taste, but as an example of the art of the treble this could not be better. But you have to wait for the second track for the whole choir to sing. When they do, the results are spectacular, a fine sense of line, firm vocal tone and superb diction all combined into a thrilling whole.

But when singing John Rutter’s For the beauty of the Earth, you feel that this superb diction and disciplined line is not quite what this rather pop-inspired sacred song needs. Rutter’s piece is undeniably beautiful, but as sung here it rather outstays its welcome and you feel there is the nicest possible mismatch between the performers and their music 

Hubert Parry’s ‘Long since Egypt’s plenteous Land’ from Judith was a bit of a surprise. The melody was adapted to become the hymn tune Repton (‘Dear Lord and father of mankind’). As sung here, the original works very well but does slightly try the patience.

The Call’ from Vaughan Williams’s Five Mystical Songs is another surprisingly effective piece, with a lovely solo from treble Philip Martin. I felt that ‘The Lost Chord’ was performed too slowly, but John Scott’s arrangement of Sullivan’s popular song was ultimately very effective. 

Stephen Oliver’s ‘How blest are they’ was used in the RSC’s production of ‘Nicholas Nickleby’ but it works very well on its own. It is not as immediately appealing as the Rutter piece, but I think that ultimately it is a subtler piece and is far more suited to the chorister’s style of singing.

Oliver’s Handelian pastiche is followed by some real Handel, ‘Let the bright Seraphim’ from Samson with the whole choir singing the solo part. Inevitably the speed is a little slower than I would like, but the choristers’ achievement is remarkable.

The next group of pieces is possibly the most successful on the disc. All are either folksongs or folksong-like pieces. They are performed in straightforward arrangements which show off the choir’s sense of line and superb diction. John Scott’s arrangement of ‘The Ash Grove’ is a prime example of this artless pleasure. But equally successful are Gordon Jacob’s version of ‘The Lord’s my Shepherd’ using the tune Brother James’s air, Julius Harrison’s rather lush arrangement of Vaughan Williams’s ‘Linden Lea’ and John Scott’s reworking of ‘Annie Laurie’.

The CD’s title track, ‘How can I keep from singing’ belongs to the same category though it was unfamiliar to me. The words and music are by the 19th century American divine Robert Lowry.

For ‘Lift thine eyes’ from Mendelssohn’s Elijah the whole choir sings the trio and the recording utilises the acoustic of St. Paul’s to magical effect.

Mark Blatchly’s ‘For the Fallen’ is a setting of Laurence Binyon’s words, which are read at the Remembrance Day commemorations. Blatchly’s piece was written for the St. Paul’s choristers. But though I felt that it was appealing, it seemed to be straining for a meaningfulness that it does not quite achieve. The final piece on the disc is more Rutter, this time his attractive little Gaelic Blessing.

The disc was produced partly in order to benefit the St. Paul’s Choir School Foundation, which receives a royalty for each copy sold. So if you are interested in hearing some superb singing from one of the finest groups of trebles in the UK, then this disc is for you, as long as you don’t worry too much about the repertoire. 

Robert Hugill


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