Journey into Light
Music for Advent, Christmas, Epiphany and Candlemas
Choir Of Jesus College, Cambridge/Mark Williams
rec. 3 -6 July 2011,Jesus College Chapel, Cambridge
Full texts included
Detailed Track-Listing at end of review
The choir of Jesus College Cambridge, founded in 1496, is distinctive in maintaining two choirs: the Chapel Choir, which is made up of boy choristers and adult male singers; and the College Choir, formed in 1982, which has female undergraduates for its top line. The adult male singers form the ‘back row’ for both choirs. In addition to the weekly schedule of choral services, members of the Choirs enjoy concerts, recordings, broadcasts and foreign tours. Their recording of Charles Wood’s St. Mark’s Passion got a very favourable review from Michael Cookson.

The booklet is very well presented. I read and hear constantly that CDs of vocal music are released with no words or background notes; not so here. There is an explanation concerning the title, summaries of each carol and their composers, texts, biographies of the main participants, and names of the entire choir. This is how CD booklets should be; the same information is available on Signum’s web site but having such clearly printed texts is first rate.
Mark Williams’ wisely selected programme blends favourite carols with lesser known works beginning with “Jesus Christ the Apple tree”, followed by McKie’s “We wait for thy loving kindness”, written for the Royal Wedding of 1947, an inspiring piece gorgeously sung. Impressive too is “I sing of a maiden” by Patrick Hadley, a close friend of Vaughan Williams. The splendid acoustics are very faithfully captured on “Advent Prose” and “There is no rose”. Britten’s moving “Hymn to the virgin” was written when he was only 16 and was new to me. I was very taken with “Bright Star carol” by Nico Muhly before we come to the familiar “In the Bleak Midwinter” with fine treble and tenor solos. “Tomorrow shall be my dancing day” is one of my favourites, is at just the right pace and has great clarity in the singing.
Bob Chilcott, a King’s singer has written an excellent piece in “The Shepherd’s Carol” and this is followed by an original arrangement of “I saw three ships” by Simon Preston, who I remember from his time at Christ Church Oxford as Organist and Choirmaster. I didn’t know “The little road to Bethlehem” and as the notes say, it is very touching. “Away in a manger” sung unaccompanied shows off the prowess of the combined choirs. A very fine rendition of William Mathias’s lively “Sir Christčmas” is succeeded by John Tavener’s popular “The Lamb” one of the best renditions I’ve heard. Thundering organ from Timothy Lambourn heralds a tour de force on the tune “Of the father’s heart begotten”, one to play loud! In line with the concept of Journey is “Epiphany” by Judith Bingham written in 1996.This shows the College choir to good effect.
Herbert Howells’ “Here is a little door” is a good example of this fine English composer as is “Bethlehem Down” by Peter Warlock which won “The Daily Telegraph” carol competition; both are glorious here. Many will remember the late Geoffrey Burgon’s “Nunc Dimmittis” from “Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy”. This is one of the highlights of this disc as the choristers combine with trumpet and organ. The final item is the eight part “Hymn to the Creator of Light” by John Rutter. It’s a first-rate example of this composer’s work; the choral singing is superb.

I really enjoyed this record and looked forward to playing it often. The excellence of the singing coupled with the aptness of the selection make this collection special. It deserves to do well. There’s something distinctive about a College Choir and they are to be congratulated on this recording.
A very well chosen selection of Christmas Choral music magnificently sung.
  David R Dunsmore
A very well chosen selection of Christmas Choral music magnificently sung.
Full Contents:
1 “Jesus Christ the apple tree” Elizabeth POSTON (1905-1987) College Choir Emma Walton soprano solo [3:05]
2 “We wait for thy loving kindness” William McKIE (1901-1984)
Robert Dixon organ Alexander Beetschen baritone solo [2:32]
3 “I sing of a maiden” Patrick HADLEY (1899-1973) Choristers
Robert Dixon organ [2:43]
4 ”Advent prose” Judith WEIR (b.1954) College Choir [1:43]
5 “There is no rose” John JOUBERT (b.1927) College Choir [2:29]
6 “Hymn to the Virgin” Benjamin BRITTEN (1913-1976) Olympia Hetherington soprano Frances Burn alto Edward Leach tenor
Matthew Smith bass [3:18]
7 “Bright star carol” Nico MUHLY (b.1981) Combined Choirs Robert Dixon organ [3:52]
8 “In the bleak midwinter” Harold DARKE (1888-1976) Combined Choirs Timothy Lambourn organ Alasdair Austin treble solo Jaliya Senanayake tenor solo [4:28]
9 “Tomorrow shall be my dancing day” John GARDNER (1917-2011)
Combined Choirs Timothy Lambourn organ [2:06]
10 “The Shepherd’s Carol” Bob CHILCOTT (b.1955) Combined Choirs [2:54]
11 “I saw three ships” Trad. arr. Simon PRESTON (b.1938) Combined Choirs Timothy Lambourn organ Nico Bryan treble solo Edward Leach tenor solo [2:03]
12 “The little road to Bethlehem” Michael HEAD (1900-1976)
Robert Dixon organ [3:00]
13 “Away in the manger” W.J. KIRKPATRICK (1838-1921) Combined Choirs [2:56]
14 “Sir Christčmas” William MATHIAS (1934-1992) Combined Choirs
Timothy Lambourn organ [1:28]
15 “The Lamb” Sir John TAVENER (b.1944) College Choir [3:26]
16 “Paean on ‘Divinum Mysterium’” John COOK (1918-1984) Timothy Lambourn organ [4:20]
17 “Epiphany” Judith BINGHAM (b.1952) College Choir, Robert Dixon organ [3:37]
18”Here is the little door” Herbert HOWELLS (1892-1983) College choir [4:03]
19 “Bethlehem Down” Peter WARLOCK (1894-1930) Combined choirs [4:03]
20 “Nunc Dimittis” Geoffrey BURGON (1941-2010) Choristers, Robert Dixon organ, Rebecca Crawshaw trumpet [2:45]
21 “Hymn to the creator of Light” John RUTTER (b.1945) College choir [7:22]