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Faire Is The Heaven - Hymns and Anthems
The Choir of St. John’s Church, Elora/Noel Edison
Paul Halley (organ)
Recorded at St. John’s Church, Elora, Ontario, Canada 2-6 Feb 2002.
NAXOS 8.557037 [63:21]

Gordon SLATER (1896-1979), arr. Paul HALLEY (b.1952) (Tune: St. Botolph) Hymn: Jesu, the very thought of thee [4’45"]
Healey WILLAN (1880-1968) Motet: Gloria Deo per immensa saecula (5vv) [7’46"]; Motet: I beheld her [2’15"]; Motet: Fair in face [2’19"]; Motet: Rise up, my love [2’01"]
Sydney CAMPBELL (1909-1974) Anthem: Sing we merrily unto God our strength [2’19"]
Herbert HOWELLS (1892-1983) Te Deum [8’22"]
Samuel Sebastian WESLEY (1810-1876) (Tune: Hereford) Hymn: O Thou who camest from above [2.36]
Imant RAMINSH (b.1943) Motet: Ave verum corpus [5’23"]
John IRELAND (1879-1962) Hymn: My song is love unknown (Descant: Paul Halley) [3’15"]
Wolfgang Amadeus MOZART (1756-1791) Motet: Ave verum corpus in D, K618. (1791) [3’13"]
Bryan KELLY (b.1934) Magnificat in C (1965) [3’32"]
William Henry MONK (1823-1889) (Tune: Eventide) Hymn: Abide with me (Descant: Stephen Crisp) [3’09"]
Felix Bartholdy MENDELSSOHN (1809-1847) Hymn: Verleih uns Frieden (1831) [4’43"]
William Henry HARRIS (1883-1973) Motet: Faire is the Heaven (8vv) (1925) [5’16"]
Rev. Clement Cotterill SCHOLEFIELD (1839-1904) (Tune: St. Clement) Hymn: The day Thou gavest, Lord, is ended (Descant: Paul Halley) [2’28"]

The choir of St. John’s Anglican Church is the only all-professional church choir in Canada. As such one expects, and obtains, a very high standard of singing. The number of singers is not mentioned, but I would estimate these to be at a fairly standard 24 with four to a part in the lower accompanying lines and twelve top sopranos. The performances throughout are extremely well presented and sung. The organ accompaniment is tasteful and not overpowering and the tempi and ambience are ideal.

The choice of music shows a deal of flair. The hymns are well known, but given new arrangements with varying harmony, men and women’s voices in unison, unaccompanied verses and an imaginative descant on the final verse. The motets and anthems are interesting. In the case of Healey Willan I cannot trace any previous recording (there are two Virgin collections of Willan’s choral music. Ed.); both he and Imant Raminsh are domiciled in Canada, though of English and Latvian roots respectively. Faire is the Heaven is another matter, with over ten rivals; however the choir acquit themselves well, and measure up to the competition. They exhibit a good attack in all pieces and sing with plenty of spirit. Diction is particularly impressive, and items which could be sugary-sweet are not over-sentimentalised. The recording throughout is well balanced and faithful.

All in all, an interesting disc.

John Portwood

see also review by John Quinn


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