The Eltham College Choirs have put together yet another greatest
hits sampler from the Anglican Cathedral repertoire; it’s a mixed
success. On the whole, the choir sings with a warm blended tone
and with even balance between the sections. But, being a non-professional
university ensemble, in some repertoire the group’s weaknesses
jump out at you.
Jenkins, famous for his “Diamond Music” and “Adiemus” recordings
has composed a festive opening motet, written to celebrate
the inauguration of the college’s new music school in 2005.
It is obviously an occasional work, and serves the purpose
well. We continue with a long set of evergreens that is at
times quite lovely and at others rather trying.
Greater Love receives a well paced and finessed performance
here with nice solo work by Julian Issa and Matthew Morgan. We
hit some trouble in the Fauré Cantique,
where the men’s tone is way too strident for the lovely unison
passages at the beginning. When we get to the louder four-part
writing, the tenors stand out with their overheated and white
tone color. Stanford’s famous motet Beati quorum via gets
a lovely and elegant performance, but for the life of me, I don’t
know why choirs of all young singers try to tackle the Brahms
Requiem. Wie lieblich is under-winded and there is an obvious
lack of physical maturity in the sound that serves only to make
the listener wonder why this piece was chosen. Parry’s omnipresent
I Was Glad is also in need of a more mature sound, especially
from the men.
Fairs is an imaginative organist and contributes two fine
solos to break up the pine forest. Of particular merit are
the Alain Janequin Variations that receive a colorfully
registered and rhythmically driving performance.
Leighton’s music can be rather stark at times, and the harmonic
darkness of Solus ad victimam is brought forth beautifully
in this rendition. It is a motet that leaves the listener
feeling like he’s just been struck with a hammer. The choir
brings out the anguish and pain in the text to a remarkable
degree. S. S. Wesley’s Brahms-influenced motet Blessed
be the God and Father has some touchingly tender moments,
but it does tend to run on a bit. In this work I found the
choir’s singing to be a bit over-bright and too far forward
in the mouth. A little more depth and richness, particularly
from the men would have been welcome.
tenderest performance of the whole recital comes in the beautiful
hymn setting Long since in Egypt’s plenteous land. The
trebles capture a lovely innocence that is touching indeed.
The program is rounded out with a successful performance of
John Rutter’s well crafted Te Deum.
sum it up, this is a mixed bag of hits and misses that seems
more suited to the souvenir market than international release.
Given that there are literally hundreds of superb professional
recordings of these standards, I wonder why university choirs,
who have the luxury of vast amounts of regular rehearsal time,
do not record more challenging and obscure works. Face it
- a disc like this cannot stand against ones by the Cambridge
Singers or The Sixteen. Wouldn’t listeners be better served
by an exciting first recording of some fantastic work that
might rarely be performed outside of academia? I think so.