One of the most grown-up review sites around

Search MusicWeb Here



International mailing

  Founder: Len Mullenger             Senior Editor: John Quinn               Contact Seen and Heard here  

Some items
to consider

16th-19th November

Nothing but Praise

BrucKner 4 Nelsons
the finest of recent years.

superb BD-A sound

This is a wonderful set

Telemann continues to amaze

A superb disc

Performances to cherish

An extraordinary disc.

rush out and buy this

I favour above all the others

Frank Martin - Exemplary accounts

Asrael Symphony
A major addition

Another Bacewicz winner

match any I’ve heard

An outstanding centenary collection

personable, tuneful, approachable

a very fine Brahms symphony cycle.

music that will be new to most people

telling, tough, thoughtful, emotionally fleet and powerfully recorded

hitherto unrecorded Latvian music


REVIEW Plain text for smartphones & printers

Support us financially by purchasing this from

Carols from Coventry - A Memorial Tribute to Sir David Willcocks
Saint Michael’s Singers/Paul Leddington Wright
Kerry Beaumont (organ)
rec. 10-12 February 2014, Coventry Cathedral
Texts included

Traditional like a warm mince-pie, this collection is actually a tribute to the late Sir David Willcocks, who died aged 95 on 27 September 2015. The joy he has given to millions over the years via his carol arrangements is just one of his achievements, but it may well be what he is most remembered for. If his arrangements give you a glow inside, this disc is for you.

Anyone who’s ever been to a carol service stands a good chance of recognising a large number of these offerings. Mixed amongst the famous — the mighty O Come, All Ye Faithful that opens the disc, for example, radiantly recorded and sung here, or the interior intimacy of Once in Royal David’s City — are the lesser-known items. Based on a Latin poem Corde natus, Of the Father’s Heart Begotten, for example, takes a plainsong (Divinum mysterium), maintaining the feel of plainchant by alternating male and female voices for each verse, with four-part harmony only finally arriving in the final fifth verse.

The high voices of the Saint Michael’s Singers have a wonderful purity, beautifully revealed in Whence is that goodly fragrance flowing?; in this same carol, the pure legato of the lower voices is similarly laid bare. The lighter A Child is Born in Bethlehem, with its antiphonal gestures, has a real spring in its step here (as does Tomorrow shall be my dancing day); the first not to be a Willcocks arrangement is the Rutter version of the Sans Day Carol. This, apparently, was Willcocks’ favourite carol in the “Carols for Choirs” series.

The held-breath minimal dynamic level of Infant Holy, Infant Lowly, based on a Polish Christmas carol, heard in Willcocks' simple arrangement, is beautifully touching, the perfect foil for the (in comparison) behemoth of Hark! The Herald Angels Sing. The recording here is exemplary, the balance of the high voices against the low organ perfectly delivered.

One of Willcocks’ most magical arrangements is that of Ding dong! Merrily on high, with the opening descending-scale organ figures like so much tinsel draped over the famous tune; there’s a similar effect in Philip Ledger’s The Bell Carol. God rest you merry, gentlemen is given a rather more sombre reading than one might expect, its end grand rather than purely joyful.

Nice to have two world premiere recordings here: first, Z. Randall Stroope’s This endris night, a setting of a 15th-century English lullaby. The harmonies are absolutely gorgeous; as the booklet notes say, there is a sense of “mystery and awe” palpably conveyed here. Secondly, Wassail, traditional English and arranged by Jonathan Willcocks. The echoes of “Wassail” are rousing indeed; the contrast with the straightforward jollity of the ensuing Jingle Bells is marked. The recording captures the cathedral acoustic while not allowing over-blurring – quite a juggling act.

The booklet notes are exemplary: readable and packed full with useful information. If a more traditional Christmas disc is required look no further.

Colin Clarke


O come all ye Faithful (J. F. Wade, arr. Willcocks)
Of the Father’s Heart Begotten (Piae Cantiones, arr. Willcocks)
A Child is Born in Bethlehem (Scheidt, ed. Willcocks)
Sans Day Carol (Cornish trad., arr. Rutter)
Tomorrow shall be my dancing day (English trad., arr. Willcocks)
Once in Royal David’s City (H. J. Gauntlett, arr. Willcocks)
Infant holy, Infany lowly (Polish trad., arr. Willcocks)
Hark! The Herald Angels Sing (Mendelssohn, arr. Willcocks)
Away in a manger (W. J. Kirkpatrick, arr. Willcocks)
Ding dong! Merrily on high (16th-century French, arr. Willcocks)
Whence is that goodly fragrance flowing? (French trad., arr. Willcocks)
God rest you merry, gentlemen (English trad, arr. Willcocks)
This endris night (15th-century English, adapted Z. Randall Stroope)
The First Nowell (English trad., arr. Willcocks)
Silent Night (F. Gruber, arr. Leddington Wright)
The Bell Carol (Philip Ledger)
Unto us is born a son (Piae Cantiones, arr. Willcocks)
Wassail (English trad., arr. Jonathan Willcocks)
Jingle Bells (J. Pierpont, arr. Willcocks)



Advertising on

Donate and keep us afloat


New Releases

Naxos Classical

Nimbus Podcast

Obtain 10% discount

Special offer 50% off

Musicweb sells the following labels
Acte Préalable
(THE Polish label)
Altus 10% off
Atoll 10% off
CRD 10% off
Hallé 10% off
Lyrita 10% off
Nimbus 10% off
Nimbus Alliance
Prima voce 10% off
Red Priest 10% off
Retrospective 10% off
Saydisc 10% off
Sterling 10% off

Follow us on Twitter

Subscribe to our free weekly review listing

Sample: See what you will get

Editorial Board
MusicWeb International
Founding Editor
Rob Barnett
Senior Editor
John Quinn
Seen & Heard
Editor Emeritus
   Bill Kenny
Editor in Chief
MusicWeb Webmaster
   David Barker
MusicWeb Founder
   Len Mullenger