Charles Hubert PARRY(1848 - 1918)
I was glad [6.07] Henry PURCELL(1659 - 1695)
O God, thou art my God? [3.36] Barry FERGUSON(b. 1942)
It was in that train [3.11] Robert ASHFIELD(1911 - 2006) The Fair Chivalry[4.35] Johannes BRAHMS(1833 - 1897)
How lovely are thy dwellings fair [6.01] John GOSS(1800 - 1880)
O Saviour of the World [3.33] George Frideric HANDEL(1685
Zadok the priest [5.40] Felix MENDELSSOHN(1809 - 1847)
Hear my prayer [11.29] Kenneth LEIGHTON(1929 - 1988)
Solus ad victimam [4.29] Peter NARDONE(b. 1965)
I give you a new commandment [3.20] Orlando GIBBONS
See, see, the word is incarnate [6.17] William BYRD(1543- 1623)
Sing joyfully [2.43] Bob CHILCOTT(b. 1955)
Be thou my vision [4.22] John STAINER(1840 - 1901)
God so loved the world [4.03] John RUTTER(b. 1945)
The Lord bless you [3.29] Charles Villiers STANFORD(1852
Gloria in Excelsis [5.35]
Roger Sayer (organ)
Rochester Cathedral Choir/Scott Farrell; Dan Soper
rec. Rochester Cathedral, 13, 16, 19 June 2009
REGENT REGCD329 [78.36]
The title of this disc is Sing Alleluia, Favourite Anthems
from Rochester Cathedral. The selection of anthems mixes
well known ones with others which have an association with Rochester.
It is obviously intended to be a showcase for the cathedral
choirs under their directors Scott Farrell (Director of Music)
and Dan Soper (Assistant Director and Director of the Girls
Choir). Scott Farrell has been in post since 2008. The cathedral
runs a regular ensemble of men and boys as well as a girls choir
which sings services with the men. On this disc, all the choirs
come together for four items, the Parry, Brahms, Handel and
Stanford. Then the remaining items alternate between boys choir
and girls choir.
There are 16 boys, 18 girls and 17 men. In I was glad
with girls and boys combined, the result is perhaps rather top-heavy,
though the top line is lovely and firm. They are slightly distantly
recorded and this means that the inner parts are less than clear.
The tenors seem to feel the need to over-compensate and present
rather too much vibrato. These problems recur in the other large-scale
pieces, Zadok the priest, How lovely are thy dwellings
and Gloria in Excelsis.
The boys choir has a very traditional sound, very English and
with scarcely a hint of the continental sound that is becoming
more current. The girls choir has a good sound, with less edge
and more vibrato. I don't think I would mistake them for boys
- but can't be certain. The men seem to strain a little too
much, to push their voices overly.
The better known items are performed very creditably, but Zadok
the priest sounds a bit pedestrian and lacks magic, especially
with just the organ accompaniment. It is to their credit that
they include the whole of Mendelssohn's Hear my prayer
rather than just the well known closing section, but on the
whole I found the performance not quite ideal. The boy soloist
is very creditable though he does have a tendency to push the
notes from below.
The pious Victorianism of Goss's O Saviour of the World
is saved by the directness of the choir's performance.
In many respects the lesser known items are the more interesting
ones. Barry Ferguson, previous musical director at Rochester,
set words by Mother Teresa to create, in It was in this train,
a simple but effective piece which is well put over by the boys
choir. Robert Ashfield was Barry Ferguson's predecessor and
his The Fair Chivalry was written in 1949 for Southwold
Cathedral. The girls choir give a nice account of the work with
Kenneth Leighton's Solus ad Victimam is a rather striking
piece, given a fine performance. Whereas Peter Nardone's I
give you a new commandment is simpler, but still effective,
again redeemed by a committed performance. I must confess that
I found Bob Chilcott's Be thou my vision only pleasantly
tuneful but I can see that it, like Rutter's The Lord bless
you and keep you have their own place in the musical life
of a cathedral.
This disc will inevitably appeal mainly to those interested
in the fortunes and health of Rochester Cathedral choir. Whilst
I would not say that any of the performances on this disc would
be top of my library choices, there is plenty of interest. And
the choir are certainly in good health.
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