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That Yongë Child - Christmas Music for Voices and Brass
Details below
Fine Arts Brass
Worcester Cathedral Choir/Adrian Lucas
Christopher Allsop (organ)
rec. Worcester Cathedral, 18, 24, 30 January 2007. DDD
GRIFFIN GCCD 4062 [66:08]

arr. Jonathan RATHBONE

Angels from the Realms of Glory


There is no rose


Adam lay ybounden


Ave Maria


The Crown of Roses

Francis POTT

That yongë child


A spotless rose


And there were shepherds


Sinfonia and Chorale: Break Forth

arr. Norman COCKER

What is this fragrance?


The Shepherds’ Carol

Peter WARLOCK arr. Dom Gregory MURRAY

Come to Bethlehem

arr. Andrew CARTER

A maiden most gentle




Ave Maria


Lully Lulla


Where riches is everlastingly


And is it true?

arr. David WILLCOCKS/Adrian LUCAS

O Come, all ye faithful

Amongst the plethora of new Christmas discs that arrive each year finding something original or just that little bit "different" seems to be a challenge of some magnitude. Whilst everyone has their personal favourites amongst the standards of the carol canon, the fact remains that there are literally hundreds of "yuletide stalwarts" discs to choose from.

Griffin is one of a handful of labels specializing in choral, organ and church music. In this case they have given the director of Worcester Cathedral Choir, Adrian Lucas the chance to assemble a wide-ranging collection of music combining the familiar with contemporary and fresh arrangements by a number of composers well known in the field.

Not surprisingly it is two of the more familiar carols that frame proceedings. This is courtesy of the brass-emblazoned strains of Angels from the Realms of Glory in a spirited, attractive arrangement by Jonathan Rathbone and O come, all ye faithful. The latter is in the well known David Willcocks arrangement, albeit adapted by Adrian Lucas to include a rousing brass fanfare to commence. The contribution of Fine Arts Brass - often to be seen on BBC’s Songs of Praise - is excellent. Indeed it is a disappointment that the ensemble are utilized rather sparingly. They are elsewhere only to be heard in Bach’s Sinfonia and Chorale Break Forth, drawn from part two of the Christmas Oratorio and in Adrian Lucas’s adaptation of Kenneth Leighton’s touching homage to the Coventry Carol, Lully Lulla.

John Joubert’s There is no rose and Herbert Howells’ A spotless rose, one of a number of memorable contributions Howells made to the Christmas choral repertoire, are both given atmospheric readings. Both carols have entered the mainstream of the repertoire. Possibly more noteworthy are the less immediately familiar contributions from Bob Chilcott and Andrew Carter, both of whom are specialists in the field. Several modern settings utilize familiar texts. In the case of Chilcott’s haunting The Shepherds’ Carol, written for King’s College, Cambridge in 2000, the anonymous words have also recently been set by Judith Bingham in her The Shepherd’s Gift. More familiar still are the 15th century English words of Adam lay ybounden, well known in settings by Boris Ord and Peter Warlock but here treated in uplifting fashion by Robert Walker.

Bob Chilcott’s Where riches is everlasting turns to Africa for its influences. These are emphasized by an accompaniment of percussion. The music communicates a real sense of celebratory joy in its catchy rhythmic progress. Stylistically very different but no less appealing is the setting of John Betjeman’s familiar words in And is it true?, originally written for The Swingle Singers by Ben Parry. Here it is heard in an arrangement by Jim Clements, who can also be heard as one of the four Lay Clerks featured in close harmony, almost barbershop style.

Francis Pott’s That yongë child, recorded here for the first time, is all the more stark by comparison. It is treated to an unquestionably contemporary yet austerely beautiful setting of medieval words which will be familiar, this time from Britten’s A Ceremony of Carols. Pott’s setting features a solo treble, sung with clarity and poignancy by Hannah Lucas, the sound of the treble voice ultimately left magically alone over a long concluding organ chord.

If authenticity of atmosphere is a factor in your choice of Christmas music the beautifully natural acoustic of Worcester Cathedral is finely captured here and gently illuminates the sounds of the voices. Choir, soloists and brass all acquit themselves exceptionally well in a recital that succeeds in capturing both the intimacy and joy of the Christmas season.

Christopher Thomas


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