The Choir of St George’s
Chapel, Windsor Castle, has been in
existence since 1348. With the exception
of the Commonwealth period 1649 – 1660
it has sung services in the Chapel continuously
since then. The present body of singers
is moderately sized (23 boy choristers
and twelve Lay Clerks) but as recorded
here in the warm and resonant but not
over-reverberant acoustics of the Church
of the Sacred Heart, Wimbledon, they
produce a well-balanced and homogenous
sound; there is no lack of power.
was appointed Director of Music as recently
as January 2004, so this recording shows
him in the very beginning of his tenure.
He has spared no effort to present as
varied a programme as possible, besides
using the full choir, sometimes only
the treble voices, sometimes the male
voices, sometimes unaccompanied. Some
of the hymns use the excellent Marlowe
Brass Ensemble to very good effect.
As a result of adding additional colour
and punch the programme can be listened
to straight through in one sitting.
However preferably it should be enjoyed
in more manageable helpings.
Sound quality is good
and the organ-choir balance is well-judged.
There are as usual good programme notes
by Keith Anderson and the sung texts
are available on-line, which still feels
a little niggardly.
Tempos are generally
on the fast side which means that we
are spared the heavy-footed plodding
of some performances; on the contrary
there is a lightness of touch that feels
wholly appropriate. There are several
compilations of this kind and I won’t
pretend that I have heard all of them,
nor have I made many comparisons worth
mentioning. I got down from my shelves,
though, the 20-year-old EMI recording
of the Huddersfield Choral Society,
a much larger body of singers with sopranos
and contraltos and recorded in the vast
acoustics of Huddersfield Town Hall.
The only hymn in common for the two
discs turned out to be Abide with
me. The Huddersfield is impressive
in its majestic, more romantic approach
with measured tempos, fatter sound,
wider dynamics including ravishingly
hushed pianissimo singing and drawn
out ritardandos. A playing time of 4:51
as opposed to Windsor’s 3:44 gives an
indication of the differences. I still
like the Huddersfield a lot but today
I prefer the more slim-lined and lighter
Windsor approach. Even King’s College
and Stephen Cleobury were on the slow
side, clocking in at 4:19. Timings are
not of course the only criterion, but
at least they show something that is
Picking some personal
favourites I would like to mention The
Lord is my Shepherd, Tell out,
my soul with jubilant brass and
Parry’s eternal Jerusalem, in
which there is no lack of weight.
Everybody has, I suppose,
his or her favourite hymns, and if some
of them are on the list in the heading
and one can accept some livelier speeds
than usual, this disc is a safe recommendation.
Playing time is generous and the singing
is well-tuned, enthusiastic and refreshing.