(b.1945) The Original Carols from Clare
Shepherd's Pipe Carol (1967) [2:57]
Infant Holy, infant lowly [3:15]
Once in Royal David's City [4:01]
Quem Pastores Laudavere [2:25]
A nativity carol [4:10]
Eight Christmas Carols: Set 1 [10:32]
Eight Christmas Carols: Set 2 [12:33]
O Little Town of Bethlehem [3:43]
Flemish Carol [1:30]
Twelve Christmas Carols: Set 1 [20:08]
Twelve Christmas Carols: Set 2 [18:59]
Simon Vaughan (baritone), Jeremy Blandford (organ)
Clare College Singers and Orchestra/John Rutter
rec. 9-10 November 1966, 31 January-1 February 1968, Lady Chapel,
Ely Cathedral, ADD
EMI CLASSICS 9469472 [43:48 + 44:26]
I discovered John Rutter’s music with a performance of his first
major work for chorus and orchestra – The Falcon (1969).
If I remember correctly, he wrote this as his degree exercise
and David Willcocks, as he was then, conducted the première
in Cambridge and, a few days later, brought it to the Bradford
Choral Society, of which he was the chief conductor, and gave
it in St George’s Hall in Bradford. It is available on Collegium
COLCD 114, where it is conducted by the composer, and is coupled
with the Two Festival Anthems and the Magnificat.
Rutter hasn’t looked back since then. He worked on OUP’s highly
successful publications Carols for Choirs, and has written
some of the most attractive and enjoyable choral music of the
post-war period. I have been a fan since that first encounter
with his work and therefore I am more than pleased to see this
music, in these performances, back in the catalogue.
Rutter appeared at exactly the right time for church music.
In the early 1960s it had fallen into the doldrums, with Trendy
Revs, accompanied by the Happy–Clappy brigade, thinking to update
music, and by default bring young people into the Church, employed
local guitarists, with their friend, the drummer, to create
a more contemporary sound in the Services. It was a mistake,
yet examples of it can still be seen on BBC TV’s weekly programme
Songs of Praise when we can all cringe in embarrassment
at the naiveté of it all. What Rutter achieved was to marry
a popular voice, with an obvious enthusiasm and charm and create
music which is both attractive and devotional. Oddly, although
Rutter has written anthems, masses, a requiem and much else,
he’s never written a set of Canticles for the Evensong
service. I do hope that, at some point, he will fill this gap
for a Magnificat and Nunc dimittis from him would be
a major addition to the repertoire.
These two disks contain 28 carols, some original, many arrangements
of old favourites, clothed in Rutter’s distinctive orchestral
style, in performances which simply effervesce with enthusiasm.
Considering that these recordings are over 40 years old, the
sound is astonishingly good, bright and clear. The notes, by
Rutter himself, are a lesson in saying everything you have to
say clearly and succinctly. In short, these disks are a joy.
You don’t have to ration yourself to listening to them purely
at Christmas, the music is too good to be kept for one time
of the year. Enjoy them all the year round. I shall.
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