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O Blessed Light. In Praise of the Holy Trinity

Benedicta sit
Benedicta sit Creatrix
O lux beata Trinitas
Kenneth LEIGHTON (1929-1988)

A Hymn to the Trinity (1974)
Juan ESQUIVEL (c. 1563-after 1612)

Duo seraphim (1608)
Orlando di LASSUS (1532-1594)

Tibi laus
Philip WILBY (b. 1949)

Vox Dei (1993)
Peter PHILIPS (1560/61-1628)

Tibi laus
Giovanni da PALESTRINA (1525-1594)

O beata et benedicta
John SHEPPARD (c. 1515-1558)

Libera nos
Louis HALSEY (b. 1929)

O lux beata Trinitas (1995)
William BYRD (c. 1540-1623)

Te Deum from The Great Service
O lux beata Trinitas
Arthur WILLIS (b. 1926)

The Praises of the Trinity*
Francisco GUERRERO (1528-1599)

Duo seraphim
O lux beata Trinitas
Nigel BUTTERLEY (b.1935)

Flower in the Crannied Wall (1980)
Tomas Luis da VICTORIA (1548-1611)

Duo seraphim (1583)
Michael Leighton JONES (b. 1947)

O lux beata Trinitas
Charles WOOD (1866-1926)

Hail, Gladdening Light (1919)
Choir of Trinity College, University of Melbourne/Michael Leighton Jones
Philip Nicholls (assistant director and conductor*)
Recorded at the Carmelite Monastery, Kew, Victoria, November 2003
ABC CLASSICS ABC 476 294-0 [66.42]

We have here an album that celebrates the Trinity. All the selections have been, and frequently are, heard on Trinity Sunday or throughout celebrations for Holy Trinity. The bulk of repertoire sung on this disc by The Choir of Trinity College, University of Melbourne derives from sixteenth century polyphonists and English Elizabethans, though we do also find a healthy admixture of twentieth century works, ranging from Charles Wood’s famous Hail, Gladdening Light to the works of our contemporaries.

Not only then is this a celebration of the Trinity but also it’s a test of the stylistic and technical prowess of the College Choir. Since many of the selections are very short it doesn’t give one a truly penetrating insight into the choir’s affinities but certain generalizations can certainly be made. Of the Moderns their Leighton is good, forward moving and quite vibrant with care paid to rhythmic attack. I also enjoyed Philip Wilby’s Vox Dei – the English composer finds a direct and no-nonsense sensitivity in his writing. The Palestrina only lasts three or so minutes but proves ravishing. Their Sheppard is interestingly sonorous and old fashioned in style and has a romantic cut to it.

There are signs of strain in the Byrd – the voices don’t blend ideally and there are extraneous strands that do stick out somewhat and especially at the work’s climax (like so many this is part of a multi-movement structure of course) some raw voices can be heard forcing the tone uncomfortably. Still much else is fine – the Guerrero Duo seraphim especially and the Butterley with its haze of clusters, and the Wood of course, a wonderful restorative with its momentum and fire.

ABC has used the Carmelite Monastery in Kew as a recording location before and as before it was a wise choice. Texts are provided and succinct notes. Some rough edges along the way, then, and a degree of stylistic disunity here and there – but otherwise a welcome recital from this well established choir who convey a sense of continuum in the celebration with honesty and commitment.

Jonathan Woolf


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