Hear My Words Sir Charles Hubert Hastings
my words, ye people (1894) [15:03] William BYRD (c.
2. Teach me, O Lord [3:23] Sir Charles Villiers
Magnificat in G [3:57] Joseph HAYDN (1732-1809)
from Missa Brevis Sancti Joannis de Deo Hob XX11/7
(Little Organ Mass) [4:24] Malcolm BOYLE (1902-1976)
O God, art praised in Sion [6:04] Maurice GREENE (1696-1755)
let me known mine end [5:34] Henry LEY (1887-1962)
Prayer of King Henry VI [1:53] Wolfgang Amadeus
Dominum from Vesperae solennes deConfessore KV339
[4:02] Thomas TOMKINS (1572-1656)
of the deep [4:06] Sir Charles Villiers
A Song of Wisdom from Six Biblical
Songs Op. 113 No. 6 (1909) [5:27] César FRANCK (1822-1890)
Angelicus from Messe Solenelle [3:58] Felix MENDELSSOHN (1809-1847)
O for the wings of a dove (1844) [11:19] Lennox BERKELEY (1903-1989)
Lord is my Shepherd (1975) [4:28] Sir Charles Hubert
I was glad (1902) [5:19]
(baritone) (1), Hugo Popplewell (2) Joshua Cooter
(3,14) Tom Norrington (4,8,12) Alex Chance (6)
Alex Eager (6) Sam Landman (9) Alex Roberts (10) Adam Berman
(11,13) (trebles) Eton College Chapel Choir/Ralph Allwood
David Goode (organ)
rec. Eton College Chapel 5 December 2006, 14, 21 January
Texts and translations included SIGNUM CLASSICS SIGCD115 [79:00]
are two threads running through this programme. One is that
of music by composers who have connections with Eton College.
Both Parry and Malcolm Boyle were pupils at the school while
Henry Ley served on the staff.
other thread, and a more pronounced one, is a celebration
of the treble voice. The Eton choir has trebles in the age
range 13 to 15 years, whereas most cathedral choirs will
have quite a few boys who are much younger than this and,
perhaps, only a small number at the upper end of the age
range for trebles. Indeed, several of the soloists on this
disc came to Eton after serving as choristers in some of
England’s more notable Anglican choirs, including that of
King’s College, Cambridge. I think the maturity of the Eton
treble section is an important element in its overall sound.
choir consists almost entirely of pupils – I suspect from
the choir listing that one member, an alto, is a master.
That does mean that the tenors and basses will be aged, I
imagine, between 16 and 18. That does have an implication
in that there are just a few occasions in the bigger pieces
where one feels a lack of vocal weight in the lower parts.
I noticed this at times in the Stanford Magnificat, in the
Boyle setting and in Iwas glad. To be honest
this factor didn’t weigh too heavily with me but it’s worth
mentioning as other listeners may be more worried by this
than I was.
However, the chief impression
one is left with after hearing this disc is the excellence
and polish of the choir. Mind you, I’m not at all surprised
at this given that the choir training is in the expert hands
of Ralph Allwood. He has built a formidable – and deserved – reputation
as one of the finest choral trainers in the UK and he is
particularly successful in his work with younger singers,
as witnessed by the superb Rodolfus Choir, which is one of
other choirs that he directs.
Goode, the College’s Organist – and a well-known virtuoso
recitalist in his own right – comments in his booklet note
that the choir as constituted for this recording contained
a particularly rich crop of treble voices. That judgement
is amply borne out by what we hear from the various soloists.
Without exception they sing splendidly and with no little
intelligence and if I don’t mention any of their contributions
individually that des not imply that the singer or singers
in question are less than first rate.
the solos that particularly caught my eye were those by Joshua
Cooter in the glorious Stanford Magnificat and by Adam Berman
in the Franck. The latter is a piece to which I don’t usually
warm but when the solo is sung with such clarity and purity
it’s a pleasure to hear. Adam Berman reappears in O for
the wings of a dove. He’s the latest in a very long line
of trebles to essay this piece, a line that begins with Master
Ernest Lough. I doubt young Adam need fear comparisons, certainly
not among the recordings I’ve heard, for he sings this plum
from the treble repertoire very well indeed.
of the pieces contain especially demanding solos. Stanford’s A
Song of Wisdom demands intelligence as well as excellent
technique and Alex Roberts displays both. But for me the
finest singing of all in this feast of trebles comes from
Tom Norrington in Mozart’s Laudate Dominum. This gem
is a challenge even for vastly experienced sopranos. Tom
displays enviable breath control and makes a lovely open
sound. He projects the solo line confidently and pitches
every note right in the middle. The grace with which he sings
the final phrases – that exquisite ‘Amen’ – is particularly
one other soloist on the disc, baritone Alex Jones, to whom
falls the demanding, extended solo in Parry’s Hear my
words, ye people. When I listened to the disc for the
first time, prior to a detailed reading of the booklet, I
thought an adult, probably a member of staff, had taken the
solo but in fact Alex Jones is a pupil. The sound that he
produces is strong and mature and he makes a very positive
impression. This substantial Parry anthem is well done by
the choir as a whole. Parry is probably the most distinguished
musical alumnus of Eton College; he was a pupil there between
1861 and 1866. His celebrated I was glad makes a majestic
conclusion to the programme.
Much less well known is
the music of Malcolm Boyle, who was a chorister at Eton,
probably in the second decade of the twentieth century, I
presume. He went on to serve as Organist of Chester Cathedral
(1932-1949). His anthem is a setting of words from Psalm
65 and the prophecy of Isaiah. It opens confidently, the
music forthright in tone. Later on there’s a fine, extended
melody for unison trebles at the words “Thou wilt keep him
in perfect peace.” The grand ending is enhanced by the contribution
of David Goode at the console of the chapel’s fine organ – but
that’s true of every accompanied piece on this CD. Anyone
who likes the church music of Parry or Stanford should warm
to this piece by Boyle and I’m pleased to have made its acquaintance.
better known is Henry Ley’s A Prayer of King Henry VI.
This lovely little piece is known at Eton as the Founder’s
Prayer because, of course, the author of the text, King Henry
VI, founded Eton College in 1440 – and also founded its sister
establishment, King’s College, Cambridge. The authorship
of the text alone would have made it appropriate to include
this piece here but Henry Ley was a predecessor of Ralph
Allwood, serving as Eton’s Precentor and Director of Music
from 1926-1945. His exquisite miniature is expertly served
by the present incumbent and by today’s crop of choristers.
summary, this is a fine and very enjoyable disc. The performance
standard is uniformly very high and the engineers have provided
very good sound. If the programme appeals then collectors
can invest in confidence.
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