Philip Moore served with distinction as Organist and Master
of the Music at York Minster from 1983 to 2008. This CD reveals
him to be a fine composer also.
Perhaps it’s unsurprising that a man steeped in the English
cathedral tradition – he served at Canterbury and Guildford
cathedrals before moving to York – should make such effective
settings of the Evening Canticles as are performed here. And
how refreshing to find a setting of the too-rarely heard alternative
canticles, Psalms 98 and 67. These were composed for Jesus College,
Cambridge and it was at Moore’s suggestion that he set these
canticles rather than the ‘Mag’ and ‘Nunc’ originally requested.
The setting of Psalm 98 is jubilant and strongly rhythmical,
culminating in an exuberant doxology, and it features an important
organ part. The setting of Psalm 67 mixes passages of more reflective
music with joyful sections; here the doxology is more inwardly
prayerful in tone.
The standard ‘Mag’ and ‘Nunc’ texts themselves are also impressively
set in Moore’s Third Service. These are alternatim settings
and the polyphonic verses are closely related to the music of
the chant sections. The music for both canticles has a timeless
In Memoriam is for solo soprano accompanied by organ.
In this extended piece Jonathan Vaughn provides a most sensitive
accompaniment, as he does in several of the choral pieces, and
he gives admirable support to the excellent soloist, Susan Hamilton.
Moore has taken texts from a variety of sources, including the
Salisbury Diurnal, the Book of Common Prayer and Psalm 84 and
has woven them into a seamless whole. I greatly admired Miss
Hamilton’s exemplary diction and her clear, focused tone. The
nature of much of the music is reflective but one section (8:04
– 10:34), where Moore sets some lines by C L Drawbridge, is
much more dramatic. My attention was also drawn to the concluding
section (from 13:32), which is a short, ecstatic setting of
the text ‘Holy is the true light’, and which closes with soft,
radiant ‘Alleluias’, as the work began. In Memoriam is
an eloquent, impressive piece and its appearance on disc, and
in such a fine performance, is to be welcomed.
I should also mention that Jonathan Vaughn has two solo items.
Three Pieces for Withycombe were written for the
composer’s mother to play at her village church. They’re straightforward
and nice pieces – no pedal parts – and the third one, ‘Postlude’
is a delight. As its title suggests, Dance-Rondo is rooted
in dance rhythms. It’s very likeable and Jonathan Vaughn gives
an excellent, crisp account of it.
Among the choral items, Salve Regina was written for
The Exon Singers and it’s for unaccompanied SSATBB choir. Arch-like
in form, the quiet opening and ending frame a more intense central
section. O sacrum convivium, for SATB, is also unaccompanied.
It’s a fine little composition, reflective and devotional in
Though it lasts for less than ten minutes All wisdom cometh
from the Lord is a significant piece. After a vigorous opening
the music slows for a bass solo (2:14 – 4:42), beginning at
‘To whom hath the root of wisdom been revealed?’ The solo part
contains a particularly magisterial phrase, first heard at the
words ‘the Lord sitting upon his throne’, and repeated to different
words a few moments later. The soloist, Christopher Sheldrake,
sings with feeling. However, as I’ve noted on some other discs
from Wells, he has too wide a vibrato for my taste and sometimes
seems to push the tone. After the bass solo the vigorous opening
music returns before the extended and rather beautiful closing
section (from 6:04), beginning at ‘Teach me thy statutes’. This
tranquil passage is dominated by a plainsong melody in the soprano
All wisdom cometh from the Lord is an impressive piece
but so too are the others in this collection. This is music
that reflects a lifetime’s experience of writing and performing
music for voices and organ. The craftsmanship seems to me to
be fastidious and the choice of texts is discerning and these
texts frequently inspire a very eloquent musical response. Impressive
too are the performances, with Matthew Owens once again showing
what a fine choral trainer he is and drawing out committed singing
from his excellent choir. All this music was new to me – most
of the works are here recorded for the first time - but I enjoyed
it very much. Philip Moore’s expertly written and very attractive
music has been well served on this very welcome disc.