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Portsmouth Remembers: A collection of hymns, part songs and organ pieces
Henry SMART (1813-1879) Hymn: Light's abode, Celestial Salem (Regent Square)
John JOUBERT (b. 1927) O Lorde, the maker of al thing
Herbert SUMSION (1899-1995) They that go down to the sea in ships
Mark BLATCHLY (b. 1960) For the fallen ('They shall grow not old')
William P. ROWLANDS (1860-1937) Hymn: Love Divine, all loves excelling (Blaenwern)
Sir Charles H. PARRY (1848-1918) Organ: Chorale Prelude on Croft's 136th
John B. DYKES (1823-1876) Hymn: Eternal Father, strong to save (Melita)
Alan GRAY (1855-1931) What are these that glow from afar
Sir Ernest BULLOCK (1890-1979) Give us the wings of faith
Andrea GABRIELI (1510-1586) Ricercare IX del 12o tono
Percy DEARMER (1867-1936) Hymn: He who would valiant be (Monk's Gate)
John IRELAND (1879-1962) Te Deum laudamus in F
Sir Charles H. PARRY (1848-1918) Hymn: Jerusalem
Sir Michael TIPPETT (1905-1998) Steal Away
Sir John TAVENER (b. 1944) Funeral Ikos
Gabriel FAURÉ (1845-1924) Agnus Dei (from 'Requiem')
Karl JENKINS (b. 1944) Benedictus (from the Mass 'The Armed Man')
Sir Henry WALFORD DAVIES (1869-1941) Psalm 121
Organists: David Thorne, Rosemary Field and Christopher Eastwood
Portsmouth Cathedral Choir and the Regent Brass Ensemble
Organists: David Thorne, Rosemary Field, Christopher Eastwood
Directed by Anthony Froggatt and David Price
Recorded at Portsmouth Cathedral, England, July 1984; November 2003
GUILD GMCD 7271 [78:52]

 

This collection of sacred part songs and hymns provides an interesting programme: Ireland's Te Deum, Tippett's Ikos funeral music, Fauré's Agnus Dei (Requiem) and the refreshingly modern Benedictus from Jenkins’ The Armed Man are all welcome items. The hymns are of the 'Songs of Praise' variety, but these are punctuated by a couple of organ pieces to make a colourful change. The hymns here are well known and this is just as well since diction is poor from the rececessed congregation in a wide acoustic. The repetitive nature of hymns is always helped by the inclusion of a descant verse from the well-trained choir and this is particularly uplifting for two of the hymns, Light's abode and Eternal Father. The hymn, Light’s abode (Henry Smart) is rather pedestrian in speed for its jolly tune.

In the part songs, the reverberation that masks clarity in the hymns tends to promote a very pleasing effect where the boy sopranos soar effortlessly above the tenor and bass lines, and this made the experience rather special. Of the choral pieces, I found Gray's What are these that glow bright and full of energy and Parry's Chorale Prelude a nice diversion. Anyone who hasn't heard the Benedictus yet from The Armed Man will undoubtedly be moved by it.

The warmth of the recording with its wide frequency range complements the impressive organ's rich bass registers. It is unfair to differentiate between the playing of its three soloists as all contribute excellently to the programme. The addition of the Regent Brass Band for some of the hymns adds welcome colour and lifts the overall sound-picture.

Perhaps I could have done without the uninspired (to my ears) Joubert piece when it must have been a difficult choice to decide what to leave out of such a programme.

The booklet, in English only, gives useful background snippets and a full specification of the organ which I notice sports a number of 16' ranks and one 32' sub bass pedal.

Raymond J, Walker



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