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God So Loved the World: A Passiontide Sequence
John STAINER (1840-1901)
God so loved the world  [3:36]
Kenneth LEIGHTON (1929-1988)
Drop, drop, slow tears [2:12]
Edward BAIRSTOW (1847-1946)
The Lamentation [7:58]
Richard FARRANT (c.1525-1580)
Call to Remembrance [2:07]
Maurice DURUFLÉ (1902-1986)
Ubi Caritas [2:24]
Herbert HOWELLS (1892-1983)
Like as the Hart  [5:10]
Thomas TALLIS (1505-85)
Salvator Mundi [2:45]
Robert Lucas PEARSALL (1795-1856), arr. Richard SHEPHERD (b.1949)
Take up thy Cross [2:34]
Anton BRUCKNER (1824-1896)
Christus factus est [4:44]
John SANDERS (1933-2003)
The Reproaches  [8:50]
Richard SHEPHARD (b.1949)
Never weather-beaten sail [2:23]
Antonio LOTTI (c.1667-1740)
Crucifixus [3:10]
Johannes BRAHMS (1833-1897)
Geistliches Lied [5:08]
Harold DARKE (1888-1976)
O Brother Man  [4:06]
Edward BAIRSTOW (1847-1946)
Jesu, grant me this, I pray [3:23]
The Chapel Choir of University College, Durham / David Jackson; Oliver Bond (organ)
rec. 15-17 July, 2005. York Minster
LAMMAS LAMM 193D [60:37]


University College in Durham University occupies the much expanded and rebuilt Norman castle begun on the site in 1072. It contains two chapels: the Norman Chapel, which dates from the late eleventh century and, as I remember from a visit many years ago, contains some lovely sculpture and the Tunstall Chapel, begun in the 1540s and extended later. The Chapel Choir, which sings regularly at Eucharist in the Norman Chapel, is made up of eighteen students. An earlier CD featuring the choir - Cantate Domino (Lammas LAMM 162D - see review) – was recorded in the two chapels of their ‘home’ castle. This second CD, however, was recorded in the altogether grander space of York Minster. There are just a few places where one senses the difficulty of adjusting to such a different acoustic.
 
Choral Director David Jackson has selected an interesting and challenging programme for this recital. It begins with a relatively simple extract from that great piece of Victoriana, Stainer’s The Crucifixion, of 1887; later on it encompasses John Sanders’s remarkable setting of the ‘Reproaches’ (the Improperia) - Sanders’s dissonances and idiomatic sophistication, wonderfully responsive to the words of the text, make this piece one of the most striking recent works in the Anglican tradition. Elsewhere the choir tackle the considerable demands of one of Bruckner’s motets and – very different, but also very demanding – Tallis’s ‘Salvator Mundi’.
 
The choir perhaps seem most naturally at home in the nineteenth century works, and in the more conservative twentieth century works in their programme. I confess that I have never been able to find much to excite me in the thoroughly competent work of Sir Edward Bairstow, and these performances, decent as they are, haven’t converted me to his cause. The romantic harmonies of Richard Shephard’s familiar setting of Campion’s lovely poem ‘Never weather-beaten sail’ are, though, handled particularly well.
 
In all the areas of this recital the choir give a creditable account of themselves. Of many of these pieces, let it be said, there are more ‘professional’ recorded performances to be found. The youthfulness of all the voices of this Chapel Choir has its attractions – but also some inevitable limitations. There are moments when they seem slightly underpowered, especially in the lower voices. They are unable, for example, to bring quite the necessary weight of calm gravity to Brahms’s ‘Geistliches Lied’.
 
This is a very accomplished student choir, whose recital can be enjoyed without any special pleading, without making any special ‘allowances’. There is much to admire and enjoy here.

Glyn Pursglove
 

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