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  Classical Editor Rob Barnett    


Love Divine - Wesleyan Music
Samuel Sebastian WESLEY, (1766-1837):
Anthem - Blessed be the God and Father 1-5vv. & organ. (1833-35) [7’10]
Wash me throughly from my wickedness (4vv) (pub.1853) [3’59]
Anthem - Ascribe unto the Lord (7/4vv & organ) (1849-53) [13’04] .
Anthem: Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace (5vv) (pub.1853) [3’44]
Anthem: Cast me not away (6vv. & organ) (1848) [4’26]
Hymn: O thou who camest from above (pub.1904) [2’39]
Anthem: The Wilderness (4vv. & organ) (1832) [13’09]
Paderborn Gesangbuch (1765): Hymn - Ye servants of God (4vv) [2’37]
William ROWLANDS, (1860 - 1937): Hymn: (tune "Blaenwern") - Love divine, all loves excelling. [3’23]
Johann Sebastian BACH, (1685 - 1750): Hymn - Lo! God is here! (from melody by J.H. Schein) (4vv) [1’47]
George Frideric HANDEL, (1685 - 1759): Hymn: Rejoice the Lord is King [2’43]
Traditional 18th. Century: Hymn: Lo, he comes with clouds descending [4’55]
The Choir of Lincoln College, Oxford/Christopher Eastwood
Christopher Bucknall (Organ)
Rec. Exeter College, Oxford, 13-15 March 2002
GUILD GMCD7256 [64’47"]



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When I was a lay clerk at Birmingham in the late 1950s to 1960s, this was the sort of music at which we figuratively turned up our noses, but time does mellow one. Although by no stretch of the imagination could one call this programme one of inspired music, it does have a certain charm in its predictability and Georgian atmosphere. This was admittedly a fallow period in English music, which is why Sullivan was so enthusiastically acclaimed as its saviour. Sung well these are items of church music which anyone aspiring to know that genre should be acquainted with.

I question the appropriateness of using contraltos. It was not common practice at the time of Wesley. There are also other issues. There is one counter-tenor to sing the alto part, at times a little too prominent. The choir give a good account of themselves and are obviously very keen, but therein lies the problem; they sound too keen, which again only emphasises the somewhat immature voices. The other drawbacks are those common to amateur choirs. Entries are uncertain and lack bite, the ensemble work is often not as one (and this applies particularly to the men’s parts) and at times the inner parts are too intrusive. The best part of the choir is undoubtedly the sopranos, who have nice clear voices and reach top notes well, but the problem with entries applies just as much here. Apart from the inner parts already mentioned, the balance is good and the diction admirably clear. There is also good balance with the organ, which is backward to the choir.

The hymns are all well known, and all have words by either John, Charles, Samuel or Samuel Sebastian Wesley. They come over best, particularly given the enthusiasm in singing. Several of the anthems have solo parts, and although the soloists try hard, again they are obviously amateurs. There is of course nothing wrong in this, but at a disc costing full price? This will obviously appeal to the choir themselves and act as a memento of their time at Oxford, and I am sure parents, friends and relatives will purchase it, but all these pieces are recorded elsewhere and by more skilled forces.


John Portwood



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