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Sir Charles Hubert Hastings PARRY (1848-1918)
From Songs of Farewell (1913/16)
1. My soul, there is a country [3:15]
2. I know my soul hath power to know all things [2:02]
3. Never weather-beaten sail [2:58]
4. There is an old belief [3:26]
5. At the round earth’s imagin’d corners [6:11]
Jerusalem (1916) [2:36]
Dear Lord and Father of Mankind (1888) [3:41]
I was glad (1902, revised version of 1911) [5:22]
Sir Charles Villiers STANFORD (1852-1924)
Mass in G major for Soli, Chorus, Orchestra and Organ, Op. 46 (1891/92) [36:08]
Nicholas O’NEILL (b. 1970)
Flyht (2013) [6:55]
Betty Makharinsky (soprano); Caitlin Goreing (contralto); Tom Castle (tenor); Will Dawes (bass)
Choir of Exeter College, Oxford
Stapledon Sinfonia/George de Voil
Tim Muggeridge (organ)
rec. 9-11 January 2014, Keble College Chapel, Oxford, U.K.
English and Old English texts included with English translation of the Old English but not the Latin Mass
EM RECORDS EMRCD021 [72:34]

This collection of choral works concentrates on Parry and Stanford both renowned for their contributions to the genre. Undoubtedly the feature work is the world première recording of Stanford’s Mass in G. The London-based composer and musician Nicholas O’Neill is new to me and is represented here by the world première recording of his motet Flyht.

Parry wrote his cycle of six motets Songs of Farewell from around 1913/18 — all late works connected to death and dying. Here the first five are performed but without the sixth Lord, let me know mine end, the longest at around eleven minutes. It would be hard to image that the motets were not strongly influenced by the terrible casualties caused by the Great War that was raging at the time of composition. Amongst them were a number of the Royal College of Music pupils and staff who had joined the armed forces and were either severely affected or killed. My favourite song of the set, a Henry Vaughan setting My Soul, there is a Country, feels especially affecting in this fine performance. Composed in 1916, Jerusalem, Parry’s setting of the William Blake text from the poem 'Milton' flourished as a patriotic anthem during World War I. Rousingly performed here Jerusalem has achieved enduring popularity and is the work that I most associate with Parry. A relatively early work from 1888, the music to Dear Lord and Father of Mankind began life as part of Parry’s oratorio Judith. In 1924 after Parry’s death the melody was used by George Gilbert Stocks, director of music at Repton School, with words by John Greenleaf Whittier. It became a much loved congregational hymn. Sung with spirit this performance has a comforting yet respectful feel. Parry wrote the bold and dramatic processional anthem I was glad - a setting of text from Psalm 122 - for the coronation service of Edward VII. For the coronation of George V in 1911 he revised the opening and this is the version performed on this release. The telling results under George de Voil’s baton are both stirring and highly gratifying.
 
I am reasonably familiar with the Stanford's works-list but his Mass in G major for soli, chorus, orchestra and organ, Op. 46 is virtually unknown. It might seem unlikely that Stanford, an Irish Protestant, would write a setting of the Latin mass but he clearly held no prejudice towards the Roman Catholic liturgy. In response to a commission from Thomas Wingham at the Brompton Oratory he composed the Mass in G in 1891/92. This delightful and engaging sacred score is sympathetically sung by the well matched soloists and chorus of the Exeter College Choir. The substantial and exultant Credo is especially inspiring. Certainly this makes a worthwhile addition to the sacred canon. I look forward to more performances.
 
Cheltenham-born and now a London resident, Nicholas O’Neill wrote his motet Flyht in 2013. It's a commission from Exeter College to celebrate the 700th anniversary of its foundation. O’Neill employs text from The Exeter Book, an 11th century collection of poetry written in Old English, combined with writings from Samuel Wesley who attended Exeter College as a ‘poor scholar’. Flyht sports a substantial organ part which is not surprising as its composer is a noted organist. I enjoyed this intensely involving performance with the excellent contribution of organist Tim Muggeridge. An enthralling and most worthwhile new work.
 
Throughout this CD the Choir of Exeter College, Oxford is in excellent form with unfailing support from the Stapledon Sinfonia. Recorded 2014 at Oxford, not in the Exeter College Chapel but in the larger space of the Keble College Chapel, the sound quality is acceptable. That said, the Stanford Mass in G on my sound system requires a higher volume than the other works. The booklet essay written by Professor Jeremy Dibble is extremely helpful. English, Old English and Latin texts are included in the accompanying booklet. The Old English passages have an English translation but unfortunately not the text of the Latin Mass. I am very familiar with the text of the Latin Mass but like many others I certainly can’t claim to know it by heart.
 
These are compelling performances, thoughtful, precise and often inspiring.
 
Michael Cookson

Previous review: John Quinn