Few need reminding of York Minster's great musical tradition. From the
days of James Nares, the Camidge dynasty and by way of Edward Bairstow,
Francis Jackson and Philip Moore, its liturgical and concert music has been
in excellent hands. The York Minster Choir provide the daily cycle of
worship as well as the young choristers receiving an excellent education at
the Minster School. Over the years the choir has made a number of
recordings, most recently St Peter's Day
at York Minster - a musical celebration of the
patronal festival under the auspices of the present director, Robert Sharpe.
A York Yuletide
is a worthy addition to their catalogue.
For the purposes of this review, the title 'Yuletide' can be seen
interchangeable with 'Christmas', although there are subtle shades of
Highlights of this imaginative programme include Bob Chilcott's
arrangement of 'In Dulce Jubilo', David Hill's beautiful reworking of
'Silent Night', and Andrew Carter's setting his own words 'Lullaby my Jesus'
to part of Warlock's 'Capriol' Suite. The liner-notes do not mention that
this latter piece uses the 'Pieds-en-l'air', movement.
The CD opens with a delightful arrangement of 'Ding! dong! merrily on
high' by Mack Wilberg. 'Jingle Bells' as arranged by Richard Shepard begins
with a serious and 'expansive' organ introduction, before sleigh bells
introduce a 'spirited, wayward and syncopated' version of the well-known
No CD of 'Yuletide Music' can be complete without a carol by John Rutter.
On this disc there are two - the 'Nativity Carol' which was composed in 1963
and represents one of the composer's early pieces. 'What Sweeter Music' with
words by Robert Herrick, was written for the Festival of Lessons and Carols
at King's College, Cambridge during 1987.
Herbert Howells' well-loved Three Carol Anthems are given a fine and
sensitive performance. The largely chordal 'Here is the Little Door'
contrasts with wonderfully accompanied baritone solo (Sam Hucklebridge) of
'A Spotless Rose'. 'Sing Lullaby,' to words by the Gloucestershire poet F.W.
Harvey, creates all the magic of the wise men visiting the crib. The same
composer's 'Long, long ago' is more adventurous, but equally evocative, in
its style. William Walton is not usually recalled for his liturgical music,
however a clutch of anthems and carols are regularly heard. 'All this time'
is a lively little motet based on an anonymous 16th
Possibly less well-known, but equally fine carols include music by Stephen
Jackson, Howard Skempton, Matthew Martin, Grayston Ives and Francis Pott add
variety and interest. The late David Willcocks is represented by his popular
'Tomorrow shall be my dancing day' featuring descants and strong
The major work here is Vaughan Williams' Fantasia on Christmas Carols.
This has long been one of my favourite seasonal works. Matt Dowdy provides a
thoughtful baritone solo, with the choir and organ in magical accompaniment.
This music epitomises the mood of an 'old English Yuletide'.
The Choir of York Minster under their Director of Music Robert Sharpe give
a good account of these delightful 'Yuletide' songs, hymns and carols. David
Pipe, the Assistant Director of Music is there for the essential organ
accompaniment to a number of these pieces.
An attractive picture on the CD insert shows York Minster on a snowy day
taken from inside the Dean's Park. The liner-notes by George Haynes are
helpful, but why could the dates of the composers and arrangers not have
been provided? I know that they can be 'Googled', but not everyone is online
when they are listening to Christmas carols. The texts to all the pieces
have been included.
This is an attractive and enjoyable selection of Christmas music from a
wide range of composers. There are many favourites here as well as a good
sprinkling of lesser-known arrangements.
16th Century French, arr. Mack WILBERG
Ding! dong! merrily on high [2:40]
John RUTTER (b.1945)
Nativity Carol [4:10]
Herbert HOWELLS (1892-1983)
Three Carol-anthems: Here is the little door, A spotless Rose, Sing
Matthew MARTIN (b.1976)
Nowell sing we [2:45]
What sweeter music [3:59]
Francis POTT (b.1957)
English traditional, arr. David WILLCOCKS (1919-2015)
Tomorrow shall be my dancing day [1:48]
Grayston IVES (b.1948)
Lo, how a rose e'er blooming [2:59]
William WALTON (1902-1983)
All this time [1:35]
Long, long ago [4:07]
Howard SKEMPTON (b.1947)
Adam lay-y-bounden [1:31]
Stephen JACKSON (b.1951)
The Virgin's Song [2:57]
Old German, arr. Bob CHILCOTT (b.1955)
In dulci jubilo [2:06]
Franz GRUBER (1787-1863), arr. David HILL (b.1957)
Silent night [4:03]
Peter WARLOCK (1894-1930) transcribed by Andrew CARTER
Lullaby my Jesus [2:55]
James PIERPONT (1822-1893) arr. Richard SHEPHERD
Jingle Bells [2:13]
Ralph VAUGHAN WILLIAMS (1872-1958)
Fantasia on Christmas Carols [11:54]