There is no Rose … Christmas in the 21st Century
Bob CHILCOTT (b. 1955)
Shepherd's Carol [2:54]
Thora BORCH (1832-1923)
Skyerne grane (The clouds turn grey) arr. Soren K. Hansen [3:41]
Veni, veni, Emanuel (arr. Allan Gravgaard) [4:05]
James MACMILLAN (b. 1959)
O Radiant Dawn [3:40]
Es ist ein Ros' (arr. Ole Kongsted) [6:36]
Quem pastores (arr. Nigel Short) [2:10]
Allan BULLARD (b. 1947)
And all the stars looked down [2:42]
Carl NIELSEN (1865-1931)
Mit hjerte altid vanker (My heart always wanders) [5:28]
Richard CAUSTON (b. 1971)
Cradle Song [3:16]
There is no rose of such virtue [3:29]
En rose så jeg skyde (arr. Carsten Seyer-Hansen) [3:25]
Gustav HOLST (1874-1934)
In the Bleak Mid-winter (arr. Ola Gjeilo) [5:39]
The Holly and the Ivy (arr. Paul Hillier) [3:09]
Es ist ein Ros' (arr. Paul Hillier) [3:02]
We wish you a merry Christmas (arr. Paul Hillier) [1:48]
Vocal Group Concert Clemens/Carsten Seyer-Hansen
rec. January/February 2016, St Marcus Church, Aarhus, Denmark.

Durable and effective Christmas releases often reflect today’s mixture of religious and secular celebration. With its substantial choir-sized ensemble, Vocal Group Concert Clemens from Denmark offers sumptuous and elegantly expressive traditional tunes in new arrangements and brand new works, many of which appear here in première recordings.

Danish, German and Latin languages are all used, but texts are given in the booklet and translated almost to a fault, with the three versions of A rose has sprung up all dutifully provided with the same English words. The new arrangements are all expertly done and in keeping with the late-night, candle-lit feel of the whole. Modern touches are tastefully applied. Allan Gravgaard’s arrangement of Veni veni Emanuell has for instance some bluesy close harmony towards the end, setting the scene for James MacMillan’s lovely O Radiant Dawn, which throws in the occasional harmonic surprise.

Everyone will have their favourites here, and perhaps tracks that they prefer less. Nigel Short’s arrangement of Quem Pastores with its added ‘aaaaa’s struck me a being a bit dreary in comparison to most, while Ole Kongsted’s version of Est ist ein Rose managed to tease my tear-ducts. There’s no accounting for how you will respond to a particular piece on any given day. And all the stars looked down by Allan Bullard is rather special, and Carl Nielsen’s Mit hjerte altid vanker is given nice folksy inflections in the all-female ensemble for which it has been arranged. Bob Chilcott’s choral writing is always sublime, and uber-familiar pieces such as In the bleak Midwinter retain their special identity while at the same time being given a nice new coat for the season with some inventive added accompanying motifs that work very well. The final version of Es ist ein Ros is the best known 16th century tune, cleverly reharmonised by Paul Hillier to keep the atmosphere of the original while creating something a little more suspenseful and up to date. The whole thing ends with a rousing We wish you a Merry Christmas, also arranged by Paul Hillier but keeping close to what you are likely to be used to – with a little surprise at the end.

This is a very well sung and nicely recorded programme of fine versions of familiar and less familiar seasonal music. With its theme of love warmly expressed throughout and a welcome lack of commercial tinsel I would recommend this to anyone.

Dominy Clements

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