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 - 1759) 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 - 1924) 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 good diction.
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.