Page 46 - Church Music Quarterly June 2019
P. 46

Worth hearing Recommended Essential listening
 A YEAR AT . . .
Choir of Exeter Cathedral / Timothy Parsons (organ) / Timothy NoonRegent REGCD524
Choir of Lincoln Cathedral / Jeffrey Makinson (organ) / Aric Prentice · Regent REGCD532
I’ve always had a soft spot for Exeter Cathedral; during their latter years my late parents liked to attend Sunday choral evensong sitting in the return stalls under the organ – truly a ringside seat!
Listening to this CD of the cathedral choir under the direction of Timothy Noon has evoked happy memories and it’s marvellous to hear them in good voice.
Regent’s A Year at ... series continues to work well as a framework to reflect music-making at many of our great cathedrals. Alongside the key Christian seasons such as Christmas and Easter, local patron saints and other feast days are celebrated. Exeter’s collection begins with a rousing performance of Howells’s Hymn to St Cecilia. There are some excellent repertoire choices – Robert Parsons, Philip Lawson, Tallis (11 wondrously soaring minutes of Videte miraculum) and Purcell’s Hear my prayer. Also represented are key pieces by John Blow, S.S. Wesley, Hadley and Stainer.
As the cathedral’s patron saint is
St Peter, I was slightly disappointed that Britten’s Hymn to St Peter hasn’t been included but Anthony Piccolo’s Jesus walking on the waves is a fascinating substitute. It’s described not as an anthem but a dramatic scena depicting Matthew’s Gospel account of Peter’s fear and faith during the storm in which Christ calmed the waters. Jonathan Dove’s Seek him that maketh the seven stars rounds
off an excellent listen.
Another of Regent Records’ A Year at ... series takes us to Lincoln Cathedral. As with the recording from Exeter, this is a collection of works reflecting seasons of the church year interspersed with pieces of local interest and origin. Who better at Lincoln than to start with William Byrd who was appointed organist and master of the choristers in 1563! His Vigilate that opens this CD takes care of the Advent offering, immediately followed by Ding dong, merrily on high in the increasingly popular arrangement by Mack Wilberg and Peter Stevens. Looking down the list of 17 pieces, there are wonderful choices from the 16th century up to
the present day: S.S. Wesley, Parsons, Taverner, Tallis, Brahms and Finzi, with more contemporary pieces from Bob Chilcott, Judith Bingham and Mark Blatchly.
What mark out each of the A Year
at ... CDs are works that have begun life in the featured cathedral and become a part of its tradition. My dearest wish by Lincolnshire composer Patrick Hawes, commissioned by the cathedral in 2010, is a case in point. This pleasingly sonorous piece sets a text by the composer’s brother Canon Andrew Hawes who has served as a priest in the Lincoln diocese and as a prebendary at the cathedral. In turn the text is drawn from sayings by Bishop Edward King
who was Bishop of Lincoln from 1885 until his death. Now that is a local brew! Stuart Robinson
Cathedral Singers of Chicago / Pamela Warrick-Smith (soprano) / Richard Proulx / John L. Bell SPCK 978-0-281-08002-1 £14.99
Is this a CD of songs accompanied by
a beautifully produced book or a book of readings, prayers and meditations accompanied by a hauntingly poignant recording? It is both: unusual in concept and format, but resulting
in an item to be read, listened to and treasured. Songs to accompany the process of grieving have a long history, not least in the songs of lament in the Book of Psalms. In this new CD/book the songs begin and end with solidarity with Jesus in his grief – starting with scripture ‘... Jesus wept’ and ending with the spiritual ‘Nobody knows the trouble I’ve seen’. In between, John Bell organizes the material to move from ‘grief, fear and abandonment’ through ‘consolation’, then ‘leave taking’ (a section that concludes
with the Agnus Dei and ‘Lux perpetua’ from the Requiem) before reaching the ‘saints in heaven’.
The 17 musical items include original hymns by John Bell, biblical paraphrases, liturgical texts and spirituals. Many
of the hymns have original tunes but there is also effective use of folk melodies including Iona boat song, Lark in the clear air and O waly waly. The Genevan Psalm 12 tune, otherwise known as Donne secours, has a dance feel in John Bell’s catchy treatment for ‘Go, silent friend’. The 16-voice choir is accompanied at various times by flute, oboe, cello, piano and organ. The songs collectively embrace grief and loss with courage and, ultimately, a sense
of hope and trust in God.
Julian Elloway

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