The Winchester Tradition
Samuel Sebastian WESLEY (1810-1876)
Ascribe unto the Lord [14:56]
Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace [3:49]
Thomas WEELKES (1576-1623)
Hosanna to the Son of David [1:57]
Sir George DYSON (1883-1964)
Morning Service in D - Jubilate [2:36]
Lauds (from Three Songs of Praise) [4:04]
Evening Service in C minor - Magnificat [3:07]
Nunc Dimittis [2:31]
Malcolm ARCHER (b.1952)
Missa Omnes Sancti [16:48]
Domum, dulce domum [1:39]
Jeremiah CLARKE (c.1670-1707)
O Jesu, King most wonderful (arr. Paul Provost) [3:01]
Raymond HUMPHREY (b.1916)
I sing of a maiden [3:04]
William COLE (b.1990)
A heart alone [4:00]
Paul PROVOST (b.1985)
Jubilate Deo [3:45]
Winchester College Chapel Choir/Malcolm Archer
Paul Provost (organ)
rec. Winchester College Chapel, 21-22 June 2007
texts and English translations included
REGENT REGCD331 [70:41]
Winchester College was founded in 1394 and can trace its organists back to the 1540s. All of the composers represented on this disc have a direct connection with the College. Clearly it is self-recommending to those fortunate enough to have been educated there, but perhaps more relevant to the rest of us is that it is a very interesting and satisfying collection of music performed with skill, musicality and enthusiasm.
Any disc which starts with S.S. Wesley’s wonderful “Ascribe unto the Lord” gives itself a big advantage as this is a large-scale, varied and imaginative work which allows a choir and organist to show off all their abilities. Comparing this to performances by cathedral choirs there is perhaps occasionally some lack of power and depth of tone amongst the tenors and basses, unsurprising in what is in effect a school choir, but the ear soon gets used to their sound which is well controlled and very musical in its phrasing and which avoids the loose vibrato which can affect older singers. One of its most attractive features is the bright sound of the choir, especially the trebles, and above all the sense of direction in their phrasing. There is never any sense of merely revelling in the beauty of sound - although there is such beauty, in particular in items like the other Wesley item, the justly often recorded “Thou wilt keep him”.
Wesley’s time in Winchester was troubled, as it was in most of the cathedrals and churches in which he was employed. He was appointed as organist to the cathedral and only took on the additional task of organist at the College with reluctance. Sir George Dyson on the other hand showed great enthusiasm for it. The Evening Service in C minor, often sung in D minor, is sung here as originally intended with the Magnificat taken by the tenors and basses and the Nunc Dimittis by the trebles, or Quiristers as they are known at Winchester. Like the Morning Service in D also included here it is essentially the kind of work for which the term “muscular Christianity” seems appropriate. Nonetheless sung and played like this both works go beyond their liturgical purpose and give real musical pleasure. I got even more pleasure from the Missa Omnes Sacri by Malcolm Archer, the current Director of Chapel Music and conductor on this disc. The composer acknowledges the influence of the great Masses of Widor and Vierne, and the opening of the Kyrie does indeed instantly remind the listener of those great works. It nonetheless has a distinctive character of its own and is well worth hearing, as is his new setting of the school song “Domum, dulce domum” (Home, sweet home) which has nothing to do with Bishop’s song but may apparently relate to a time when the school was exiled from Winchester during an outbreak of plague. Malcolm Archer sets it to a catchy tune which should meet his aim of providing something more memorable than the tune previously used.
This is a very engaging disc, full of interesting and varied music, well performed, with good booklet notes and texts with English translations where necessary. The choir has apparently been in existence for over 600 years but it is hard to imagine that they have often surpassed their current standard. I hope that they will continue to explore their fascinating musical history.
A very engaging disc, full of interesting and varied music, well performed