Herbert HOWELLS (1892-1983)
The Summer is Coming [7.18]
Sweetest of Sweets [4.58]
Sing Lullaby [3.17]
One Thing I Have Desired [5.21]
A Spotless Rose [3.11]
Antiphon [4.20]
Walking in the Snow [4.05]
A Grace for 10 Downing Street [2.33]
Here is the Little Door [3.35]
God be in my head [1.24]
Long, Long ago [4.55]
Te Deum (Collegium Regale) [8.54]
Jubilate (Collegium Regale) [3.09]
Magnificat (Dallas Canticles) [5.35]
Nunc Dimittis (Dallas Canticles) [3.18]
A Hymn for St Cecilia [3.07]
Rodolfus Choir/Ralph Allwood
Tom Winpenny (organ)
rec. St John the Evangelist, Upper Norwood, London, 2-6 January 2009

From the very opening of this disc - a mixture of sacred and secular choral works - the Rodolfus Choir, under the astute directorship of Ralph Allwood, capture Howells’s idiom perfectly, and their understanding of this music is reflected in the high quality of their performances. They commence with The Summer is Coming, a brooding and complex work, written in memory of Arnold Bax, and the disc also features the much-loved Three Carol-Anthems – Sing Lullaby, A Spotless Rose and Here is the Little Door, here sung beautifully – although I found the soloist a little strained in A Spotless Rose. Howells composed his George Herbert settings Sweetest of Sweets and Antiphon very late on in life. Written for the Bach Choir at the suggestion of Sir David Willcocks, these are both brilliantly crafted works – harmonically adventurous and complicated, but one of my very few criticisms of this disc is that the male voices appear rather weak in Antiphon. The female voices are, in fact, stronger and more secure as a general rule throughout this recording, and they are particularly outstanding in One Thing Have I Desired, a work commissioned by St Matthew’s, Northampton. Other works presented include the Collegium Regale Te Deum and Jubilate, the Magnificat and Nunc Dimittis from the Dallas Service (commissioned by the director of music at St Luke’s Episcopal Church in Dallas – American Anglicans were great followers of Howells’s music at that time), and God be in my head. The latter was a composition demonstration that Howells gave to a pupil, written within the student’s hour-long lesson. The Rodolfus Choir here give a glowing account of this simple but incredibly effective piece. Another striking work on the disc is A Grace for 10 Downing Street. Edward Heath asked Howells to compose grace for a dinner to be held at 10 Downing Street in honour of William Walton - and at which the Queen Mother as well as other distinguished guests would be present. The performance here indicates how apt a start this Grace would have been to a truly impressive occasion. The disc concludes with A Hymn for St Cecilia, commissioned by the Worshipful Company of Musicians to celebrate Howells’s time as Master of the Company. It is a splendid conclusion to an excellent disc of exquisite and radiant singing.

Em Marshall

A splendid conclusion to an excellent disc of exquisite and radiant singing.