A New Heaven
Hubert PARRY (1848-1918)
I was glad [5:41]
Charles WOOD (1866-1926)
O thou the central orb [4:09]
William Henry HARRIS (1883-1973)
Faire is the heaven [5:21]
Charles Villiers STANFORD (1852-1924)
Beati quorum via [3:34]
Edward BAIRSTOW (1874-1946)
Blessed city [9:05]
Hubert PARRY (1848-1918)
Jerusalem [2:53]
Henry BALFOUR GARDINER (1877-1950)
Evening Hymn [6:44]
Howard GOODALL (b.1958)
The Lord is my Shepherd [3:18]
Edgar BAINTON (1880-1956)
And I saw a new heaven [5:14]
Hubert PARRY (1848-1918)
My soul, there is a country [4:00]
John STAINER (1840-1901)
I saw the Lord [7:13]
Herbert HOWELLS (1892-1983)
Like as the Hart [6:33]
Charles WOOD (1866-1926)
Hail, gladdening light [3:19]
John RUTTER (b.1944)
The Lord is my Shepherd [4:53]
The Sixteen/Harry Christophers
rec. 10, 13 October 2008, St Peter’s Italian Church, Clerkenwell, London
UCJ MUSIC 179 5732 [72:04]

This splendid disc of English anthems opens in suitably rousing style with a radiant performance of Parry’s I was Glad, composed for Edward VII’s coronation in 1902. It is possibly taken a little too slowly for my liking here, but contains much impressive bravura singing. The tenors, in particular, really throw themselves into the work, and although The Sixteen expands to twenty-six for this disc, they nevertheless still sound greater than that modest number. No doubt this is due not just to their superb performances, but also to the fact that the recording venue of St Peter’s Italian Church in Clerkenwell would appear to have a very resonant acoustic.

The Parry is followed by an especially beautiful and tender rendition of Harris’s double-choir anthem Faire is the Heaven, which builds to a most majestic climax before a gentle and quiet ending. The ensuing Stanford Beati Quorum via also has an utterly sublime ending. There is an excellent solo from Elin Manahan Thomas in Barstow’s substantial anthem Blessed City (based on the seventh century plainsong hymn Urbs Beata Hierusalem) with its imposing organ part; she also sings the solo in Howard Goodall’s The Lord is my Shepherd. Whilst it is good to hear this glorious piece out of its Vicar of Dibley context, I must admit that I really missed the boy soprano - it’s just not the same!

I was delighted to discover the inclusion of what is surely one of the greatest anthems, Bainton’s visionary And I saw a new Heaven, as well as Henry Balfour Gardiner’s Evening Hymn, written when the composer and great musical patron was teaching at Winchester College. Both pieces are here given fine performances – grand and awe-inspiring.

Although Stainer’s I saw the Lord, Howells’ exquisite Like as the Hart and Charles Wood’s Hail Gladdening Light are all given excellent performances, I felt that Parry’s My Soul, there is a country was not quite nostalgic, atmospheric or reflective enough, the rendition here being just a little too pedestrian and unsubtle. This, however, was my only quibble.

The disc ends with Rutter’s version of The Lord is my Shepherd – a gentle and peaceful, rather than dramatic, conclusion. The CD contains almost the perfect programme, and some peerless singing from The Sixteen under their founding conductor, Harry Christophers. Of the many discs of English anthems I’ve been lucky enough to hear and review, few have been quite as good as this.

Em Marshall

Of the many discs of English anthems I’ve been lucky enough to hear and review, few have been quite as good as this.