This is a re-issue
of recordings made in a bygone era. Not because Chichester haven’t
bothered to record anything since, but presumably because these
first appeared in vinyl and/or cassette format. Recording and
editing techniques have improved vastly in the last two or three
decades, and the remastering of these recordings has certainly
come up trumps. That said, some quite audible ambient noise
remains in places.
The curious aspect
of this CD is the organ. Continued problems with the cathedral’s
pipe organ in the first half of the twentieth century brought
about the temporary abandonment of the instrument between
1973 and 1986. During this time, the services were accompanied
by an Allen electronic organ, and it is this instrument that
can be heard on this CD. Most cathedrals would wait until their
pipe organ was up and running again before making a recording.
Not so here – evidence perhaps that the Chichester Choir was
at a peak at this time.
There are some familiar
and less familiar works represented on this disc. The opening
track from which the disc takes its name, is a marathon anthem
which is rarely performed these days – not surprising given
that it takes almost twenty minutes! And it’s twenty minutes
of standard Victorian fare that centres around a baritone solo
which is executed most stylishly.
The beginning of
I Saw the Lord, one of the most grandiose and exciting
starts to any anthem is quite pathetic here – the electronic
timbre of the organ sounds just awful, and the choir sound as
if only half of them have turned up. This piece needs plenty
of ‘oomph’ from organ and choir and sadly it’s conspicuous by
its absence here.
The lay vicars are
superb, especially the counter-tenors. An extended passage for
ATB in The Wilderness demonstrates the generally excellent
blend between the lower parts, as does Remember O Lord.
The treble sound
is a bit thin but perfectly pleasant throughout, although in
How Beautiful upon the Mountains they aren’t quite blended
and sound a little bit plummy, especially in the exposed opening
phrase. The long and complex Remember O Lord features
a delightful treble solo and has an exciting finish.
For me, Cast
Me Not Away is a highlight of the disc, and not just because
it is unaccompanied, thus avoiding the Allen organ but because
the singing is nicely controlled and well paced, doing justice
to the handsomely crafted work. Quite stunning. Curiously enough
Ian Fox is credited with playing the organ on tracks 7 and 8,
an unfortunate mistake in the sleeve-notes.
A Magnificat and Nunc
Dimittis by Henry Smart brings up the rear of this Victorian choral
fest. Whilst there are better settings from this period it certainly
brings the CD to a rousing and satisfyingly contrapuntal conclusion.