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Celebration - Christmas Fanfares and Carols
Anon arr. David WILLCOCKS (b.1919) O Come All Ye Faithful [4.19]
arr. Malcolm SARGENT (1895 - 1967) Mary had a Baby [1.53]
Robert BRIDGES (1844 - 1930) Noel Christmas Eve, 1913 [1.10]
Elizabeth POSTON (1905 - 1987) Jesus Christ the Apple Tree [4.01]
William SHAKESPEARE (1564 - 1616) Hamlet, Marcello's Speech (Act 1, Sc.1) [0.28]
arr. John RUTTER (b 1945) Christmas Night (French Melody) [3.48]
arr. David WILLCOCKS The First Nowell [5.18]
Dylan THOMAS (1914 - 1953) extract from Memories of Christmas [1.38]
William MATHIAS (1934 - 1992) Bell Carol (1989) [4.14]
Alun HODDINOTT (1929 - 2008) Fendigaid Nos (1961) [2.58]
Herbert HOWELLS (1892 - 1983) Here is the Little Door [4.05]
Thomas HARDY (1840 - 1928) The Oxen [0.46]
arr. David WILLCOCKS Once in Royal David's City [5.06]
arr. Malcolm SARGENT De Virgin Mary had a Baby Boy [2.21]
Edward ARTHUR (1874 - 1948) Tua Bethlem Dref [2.12]
Saunders LEWIS (1893 - 1985) Carol (Amlyn ac Amig) [0.40]
Geraint LEWIS (b.1958) Tawel Nos [5.17]
Henry WALFORD DAVIES (1869 - 1941) O Little Town of Bethlehem [3.52]
John GARDNER (b.1917) Tomorrow Shall Be My Dancing Day (1965) [2.00]
William MATHIAS Sweet Was the Song (1988) [3.24]
Charles DICKENS (1812 - 1870) extract from A Christmas Carol [3.12]
Anon arr. David WILLCOCKS God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen [3.12]
arr. Philip LEDGER (b.1937) Still, still, still (German melody) [2.48]
arr. John Hugh THOMAS Ar fore dydd Nadolig (traditional Welsh) [2.20]
Laurie LEE (1914 - 1997) Christmas Landscape [1.03]
Felix MENDELSSOHN (1809 - 1847), arr. David WILLCOCKS Hark! the Herald Angels Sing [3.30]
Aled Jones (readings), BBC Welsh Chorus, John Hugh Thomas, Huw Tregelles Williams (organ), Fanfare Trumpeters of the Welsh Guards, Lt. Col. P. Hannam, BEM, musical director
rec. 3-4 February and 1 July 1991, Brangwyn Hall, Swansea. DDD
NIMBUS NI 5310 [73:34]

Experience Classicsonline

This is a lovely collection of music and readings for Christmas, making a welcome re-appearance. There are seven readings, which, within the context of the recording, is just about right for ultimately it is the music for which you will be buying this disk. I must make comment that Aled Jones was a very good choice for the reader, for his easy-going, pleasant, delivery is unobtrusive, but yet manages to convey the various moods of the pieces he reads. Especially delightful, and I suspect that he relished it, too, is his performance of the short extract from Dylan Thomas’s Memories of Christmas - absolutely delicious!

I particularly liked the mixture of musics, arrangements of well-known carols, new compositions and Mendelssohn’s great Hark! the Herald Angels Sing to finish. It can’t have been easy to choose from the wealth of superb Welsh composers and whittle the choice down to what we have here, but it is a sensible choice. You couldn’t have a Welsh Christmas without a Carol from William Mathias, a composer who really knew how to write for choir. Bell Carol was new to me, and what a find! With a discreet touch of glockenspiel, his usual bouncy rhythms and joyous shouts of Alleluia! this is a real winner. Hoddinott’s Fendigaid Nos (The Wondrous Night) is a more serious work, but it stands as a perfect foil for the jaunty Mathias, which precedes it and the restrained beauty of Howells’s justly famous Here is the Little Door. A nice juxtaposition.

John Gardner’s rollicking Tomorrow Shall Be My Dancing Day is most welcome for its off-beat approach to such well known words - I wish someone would record his When Christ was born, an equally enjoyable Carol. Edward Arthur’s Tua Bethlem Dref (Towards Bethlehem) is a nice example of an older school of composition - just as Malcolm Sargent’s arrangements show an older approach to this art; would anyone, today, even consider setting the words “An’ dey say dat his name was Jesus”?. Geraint Lewis’s Tawel Nos (Silent Night) is a gorgeous meditation.

There’s so much to enjoy here and the performances are very good, the chorus receives fine support from organist Huw Tregelles Williams. The small contribution from the Fanfare Trumpeters of the Welsh Guards is thrilling. The recording is a trifle distant, you need to turn the volume up to get a good, all-round, sound, but the balance is excellent, and the climaxes really bloom.

One little moan. As this is a re-issue Nimbus has simply reprinted the original booklet. Although the notes, by Geraint Lewis, were good in 1991 when this disk first appeared, Mathias and Hoddinott were then very much with us; both have subsequently passed. Unfortunately, their dates have not been changed and this minor oversight just puts a slight blot on an otherwise enjoyable issue.

Bob Briggs  

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