Christmas from Winchester
On Christmas Night (Sussex Carol) (arr. Philip Ledger)
Bob CHILCOTT (b.1955)
The Shepherd's Carol
The Holly and the Ivy (arr. Henry Walford Davies)
God rest ye merry, gentlemen (arr. David Willcocks)
Ralph VAUGHAN WILLIAMS (1872-1958)
Witherís Rocking Hymn (arr. Andrew Lumsden)
The angel Gabriel (arr. Edgar Pettman)
Benjamin BRITTEN (1913-1976)
A Ceremony of Carols Op.28
Alfred HOLLINS (1865-1942)
Christmas Cradle Song (organ solo)
Morten LAURIDSEN (b.1943)
O magnum mysterium
16th Century French Traditional
Ding dong! merrily on high (arr. Charles Wood)
Sans Day Carol (arr. John Rutter)
Harold DARKE (1888-1976)
In the bleak midwinter
John GARDNER (b.1917)
Tomorrow shall be my dancing day
18th Century English Traditional
O come, all ye faithful (arr. David Willcocks)
Garth EDMUNDSON (1900-1971)
Toccata-Prelude on Vom Himmel hoch (organ solo)
Winchester Cathedral Choir/Andrew Lumsden
Simon Bell (organ); Frances Kelly (harp)
rec. Winchester Cathedral, 26-28 May 2010
REGENT REGCD350 [75:29]
The great space of Winchester Cathedral yields a superb sound for the Cathedral Choir's beautifully recorded disc of Christmas classics.
Andrew Lumsden's intelligent programme mixes uniformly excellent arrangements of favourite carols with less familiar works including Morten Lauridsen's O Magnum Mysterium. The outstanding production is exemplified by this setting of the Latin text, in which the composerís refined choral textures are magically transparent. Lauridsen is a star of the church music revival coming particularly out of America. This work displays a flair for luminous part writing similar to the music of his popular contemporary Eric Whitacre. Lauridsen's work is more reassuring in tone and relies less on the ear-grabbing discords peppered throughout Whitacre's music.
Vaughan Williams's Wither's Rocking Hymn receives a measured performance and like the familiar carols on the disc is beautifully sung. Sir Henry Walford Davies's arrangement of The Holly and the Ivy is especially imaginative in its combinations of voice types and includes some lovely subtle rhythmic tricks. But the heart of the disc is Britten's Ceremony of Carols, a work of many delights all rendered dazzlingly clear in this acoustic. The choir's performance is marked particularly by a tone of naivety and purity. David Hill directing the choir of Westminster Cathedral on Hyperion's 1986 recording (CDA66220) achieves a greater dynamism in Britten's short carol settings and find a vein of darker colour not evident in the Winchester choir's performance. The tricky canon of This little Babe is, for example, less biting and vehement in the hands of Winchester than in those of Westminster, but Winchester's innocence is equally valid and appealing, and their recorded sound is markedly more advanced than Hyperion's early digital. Harpist Frances Kelly is especially delicate in the harp's solo Interlude.
The quality of the singing, coupled with the perfection of the recording mark this collection out as something special and Winchester Cathedral Choir are to be congratulated for producing such an assured and enjoyable record.
Excellent sound and beautiful singing make this well chosen programme a Christmas delight.