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Jerusalem: British Choral Classics
Sir Charles Hubert Hastings PARRY (1848-1918)
I was Glad [7:28]
Long since in Egypt’s plenteous Land [4:27]
Blest Pair of Sirens [10:45]
Jerusalem [2:52]
Sir Edward BAIRSTOW (1874-1946)
Blessed City, Heavenly Salem [8:18]
Sir Edward ELGAR (1857-1934)
Great is the Lord [10:04]
O hearken Thou [4:07]
Give unto the Lord [9:28]
Sir Charles Villiers STANFORD (1852-1924)
Te Deum in B-flat [6:11]
Magnificat in B-flat [3:10]
Nunc dimittis in B-flat [3:14]
Patrick HADLEY (1848-1918)
My Beloved Spake [3:33]
Choir of Winchester Cathedral
Waynflete Singers
Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra/David Hill
Recorded in Winchester Cathedral, June 1990
DECCA ELOQUENCE 4762443 [74:29]



The Eloquence series from Decca is a treasure trove of reissues and from what I can gather was created for the Australian market. Although I have not yet tried to buy one, the review copies that I have received have all been outstanding, and I hope that they see wider distribution. This collection is a fail-safe ‘greatest hits’ collection from the Anglican Cathedral repertoire, with the twist of being accompanied by a full orchestra instead of the customary organ. On the whole, the forces here do a first rate job of presentation, although regardless of how often I am exposed to it, the men and boy choir sound, so popular in the UK, is still an acquired taste. I cannot overcome my aversion to the thinness of the boys’ tone. No matter how well they sing, boys’ voices against men’s seem to my ears to be duelling contrasts and not a unified sound.

That aside, this is a pretty fine example of the genre, and there is certainly nothing that can be called into question about the quality of the music. Opening with the ubiquitous I was Glad the program gets off to a rousing start. It’s nice for these American ears to hear the vivats that are of course omitted on these shores. Long since in Egypt’s plenteous Land was new to me; indeed I knew the hymn tune, but not this text or setting. Blest Pair of Sirens suffered from a general incomprehensibility of the text. It sounded throughout like a huge wash of oohhs and ahhhs with nary a consonant to be found.

One could have wished for more of Edward Bairstow’s music, in particular it would have been nice to have heard And I Saw a New Heaven. However, Blessed city was rendered with depth of emotion and great care.

The Elgar works are always joys to hear, but particularly in Give unto the Lord I found that the effort to sing over the big orchestra resulted in some pretty strident and overblown singing on the part of the men. In fact, loud is what often comes across on English cathedral choir recordings. Yes, it takes a lot of sound to fill those buildings when you’re in them, but the microphone is far more sensitive than the nave and adjustments need be made.

By the time the Stanford set rolled around, I was starting to tire of the sameness in both the sound of the choir and the orchestra. Basically, this ensemble has one tone color, and fine as it may be, too much of anything gets old eventually. The orchestrated Hadley motet sounded too Hollywood and as such was not really “believable.” The Parry Jerusalem, orchestrated by Elgar was sublime.

In all, this is a nice representation some of the core repertoire of the Anglican Church; but again, these ears would have appreciated much more variety, and dare I say it, mature female voices, especially given the big orchestrations.

Kevin Sutton



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