On Christmas Night
John RUTTER (b. 1945)
What sweeter music [4:35]
Traditional French, arr. Stephen JACKSON (b. 1951)
NoŽl nouvelet [3:35]
James BURTON (b. 1974)
Balulalow [2:25]
William MATHIAS (1934 -1992)
A babe is born, Op.55 [3:24]
Harold DARKE (1888 -1976)
In the bleak mid-winter [4:46]
Traditional French, arr. Mack WILBERG (b. 1955)
Ding! dong! merrily on high [2:48]
Elizabeth POSTON (1905-1987)
Jesus Christ, the apple tree [3:16]
Traditional English, arr. Philip MARSHALL (1921-2005)
I saw three ships [2:02]
Sir Richard Rodney BENNETT (b. 1936)
Out of your sleep [1:44]
Peter WARLOCK (1894-1930)
Benedicamus Domino [1:25]
John JOUBERT (b. 1927)
There is no rose [2:27]
Traditional English, arr. Sir David WILLCOCKS (b. 1919)
Tomorrow shall be my dancing day [2:00]
Matthew MARTIN (b. 1976)
Adam lay ybounden (2006) [3:13]
Matheo FLECHA the Elder (attrib.) (c.1481-1553)
Riu, riu, chiu [2:37]
Tradional English, arr. Ralph VAUGHAN WILLIAMS (1872-1958)
and Sir Thomas ARMSTRONG (1898-1994) (descant in last verse)
O little town of Bethlehem [3:42]
Traditional German, arr. Michael PRAETORIUS (1571-1621) (verse 1) and Donald CASHMORE (b. 1926)
Es ist ein Rosí entsprungen [2:54]
Christopher ROBINSON (b. 1936)
Make we joy [2:09]
Felix MENDELSSOHN (1809-1847), arr. Christopher ROBINSON (b. 1936) (last verse)
Hark! the herald angels sing [3:15]
Sir John TAVENER (b. 1944)
The Lamb [3:50]
Michael FINNISSY (b. 1946)
Telling (2008) [4:06]
Kenneth LEIGHTON (1929-1988)
Coventry Carol [3:17]
Traditional English, arr. Sir Philip LEDGER (b. 1937)
On Christmas night (Sussex Carol) [2:03]
Franz Xaver GRUBER (1787-1863), arr. Sir Philip LEDGER (b. 1937)
Silent night [3:13]
John Francis WADE (c. 1711-1786), arr. Sir David WILLCOCKS (b. 1919)
O come, all ye faithful [4:02]
John Challenger (organ)
Choir of St Johnís College, Cambridge/Andrew Nethsingha
rec. 14-16 January 2011, St. Johnís College Chapel, Cambridge, England
Full texts and English translations
CHANDOS SACD CHSA 5096 [74:22]

The booklet notes explain how the music on this disc covers the season of the church calendar between Advent and Christmas. Established in the 1670s the renowned choir relish this varied Christmas mix of old and new, familiar and unfamiliar.

The majority of the twenty-four scores are for unaccompanied choir with a further ten receiving organ accompaniment. No Christmas collection would be complete without the long established staples: Ding! dong! Merrily on high sung here with such unbridled joy and O come, all ye faithful delightfully rendered but a touch on the slow side. The gentle O little town of Bethlehem is quite exquisitely performed and Mendelssohnís Hark! the herald angels sing is really uplifting. Of the several scores that I was not familiar with the most fascinating are William Mathiasís dynamically impressive A babe is born, Sir Richard Rodney Bennettís Out of your sleep and the starkly beautiful There is no rose by John Joubert. Contemporary Christmas scores are represented by Matthew Martinís rather sombre Adam lay ybounden first performed in 2006 and Michael Finnissyís Telling - a gorgeous composition from 2008.

My particular Christmas favourites are represented by Gruberís Silent night, so affectingly sung in the arrangement by Sir Philip Ledger and also Harold Darkeís In the bleak mid-winter which sounds somewhat restrained. We will all have our own particular favourites and I would have liked the disc to have included Peter Warlockís Bethlehem Down, Gustav Holstís version of In the bleak mid-winter and something by Eric Whitacre maybe arrangements such as his Lux Aurumque (Light and Gold) or Nox Aurumque (Night and Gold). However, I realise that it is impossible to satisfy everyoneís taste.

Under the confident direction of Andrew Nethsingha the Choir of St Johnís College, Cambridge is impeccably prepared; disciplined and assured. I was struck by the choirís texture and balance with a fine body of tone. Most of all their sensitivity to the meaning of the text is above reproach. The release has the advantage of full texts and translations plus a splendid essay. If I wanted a single disc of Christmas-themed music in my collection I would be happy with this release from Choir of St Johnís College, Cambridge.

Michael Cookson

If I wanted a single disc of Christmas-themed music in my collection I would be happy with this release.