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Lammas Records

Living Bread
Samuel Sebastian WESLEY (1810-1876) Wash me thoroughly [4:42]
Giovanni Pierluigi da PALESTRINA (c. 1525-1594) Ego sum panis vivus [3:58]
Felix MENDELSSOHN (1809-1847) Hear my prayer [11:02]
Jonathan BATTISHILL (1738-1801) O Lord, look down from heaven [4:16]
Gregorio ALLEGRI (1582-1652) Miserere mei, Deus [12:31]
William WALTON (1902-1983) A Litany [3:22]
Alonso LOBO (1555-1617) Versa est in luctum [4:14]
Michael WISE (c. 1647-1687) The ways of Sion do mourn [8:25]
César FRANCK (1822-1890) Panis Angelicus [3:51]
Gerald FINZI (1901-1956) Lo, the full, final sacrifice [15:33]
Truro Cathedral Choir/Robert Sharpe
Christopher Gray, organ
Recorded Truro Cathedral, 14-16 July, 2003 DDD
LAMMAS LAMM 166D [71:59]

"Make a joyful noise unto the Lord, all ye lands. Serve the Lord with gladness: come before his presence with singing." In one form or another, these words have inspired countless composers and innumerable choirs and vocalists through the last several millennia. This CD is a collection of pieces for largely unaccompanied male chorus, with twelve adult and eighteen boy choristers performing sacred music from a rather diverse collection of traditions and epochs. The two things which tie this music together are the focus on the divine inspiration of the texts and the largely unaccompanied choral tradition designed to highlight the texts from which all of the music is derived. Where any instrumental accompaniment enters into the compositions, it is by nature almost exclusively in support of the vocals, and intended to augment and give more body to the choir rather than to contrast or ornament the arrangements. Thus this is a sacred choral album in the purest sense, recorded by a church choir in a cathedral, intended to inspire the faithful and echo the choirs of angels in the most literal sense.

By selecting vocal works from different languages, times, and lands, this collection does a good job of appealing to many tastes. However the variety is limited due to the constrained nature of the performing group and the intended audience. Church audiences are notoriously conservative, even in the realm of musical accompaniment to worship. Thus the Walton and Finzi have no difficulty coexisting beside the Allegri and da Palestrina works, nearly four centuries their senior.

The works from the 16th century are the unaccompanied, openly chorded, nearly unmetered sounds so indicative of Renaissance church music all set for the Mass. The Gregorio Allegri work Miserere mei, Deus includes sections of plainchant alternating with harmonized choral work and stratospheric treble melodies, and the Versa est in luctum contains some of the most luscious harmonizations written in the era. The ways of Sion do mourn is a duet also hearkens to the same tradition with open sounds and free flowing rhythms, but includes a simple organ part, probably written for the portative organ rather than a choral backing.

The other works tend to make use of the organ, though generally in a very restrained way. The Franck work Panis Angelicus, for instance, uses the organ to supplement the boys’ choir singing in unison rather than adding an adult choir for support the way that William Walton does in A Litany. The concluding work, Lo, the full, final sacrifice is the only work on the album with an extended organ section, and even here it is used mostly to introduce and transition between different material.

As far as the individual performances, there are a couple of places in Hear My Prayer where the soloist seems to falter and fall below pitch, but otherwise each song on the album is excellent. The choir blends well and the soloists tend toward a vocal purity that is truly outstanding. The selections presented are very representative of music that has stood out as true masterworks of church literature through the ages. The choir does a very nice job of performing, and it is doubtless that one could see how such music would make a listener feel closer to heaven. The performances give one a sense of calm and serenity. A very nice set of performances, this is an album that Truro Cathedral Choir should truly take pride in and be proud of.

Patrick Gary

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