Page 47 - Church Music Quarterly June 2019
P. 47

The Marian Consort / Rory McCleeryDelphian DCD34215
Settings of two Holy Week texts – namely the Stabat Mater and Psalm 51 (the Miserere) – seem a curious choice for a celebration. We’re told this CD
is a celebration of the Marian Consort’s 10th anniversary and its 10th recording with Delphian. Founded and directed by Rory McCleery, the Consort is
a mixed ensemble of up to 10 singers. They’ve made a name for themselves with appearances throughout the
UK and Europe and on BBC Radio 3. The CD notes refer to ‘its engaging performances and imaginative programming; the group draws its members from the very best young singers on the early music scene today.’ Although the musical mood belies any celebration, this CD is a good example of both fine programming and singing. At first hearing, a setting of the Stabat Mater by Gabriel Jackson makes for
a strident opening but it is beautifully sung and it should be: it was commissioned by the Consort. It is a heart-rending musical portrayal of Mary’s grief at the foot of the Cross. Four Renaissance works including three by Palestrina follow, including his take on the Stabat Mater. Allegri’s Psalm 51 is also included and, by contrast, James MacMillan’s more contemporary setting. It’s easy to hear how much the setting for the Sistine Chapel has influenced MacMillan in his work – the use of plainsong and fauxbourdon writing in particular.
Andrew Mellor, in his programme notes, is fascinated by many musical points of comparison between the old and new settings of the texts. This CD is a thoughtfully devised programme.
The Choir of Christ’s College, Cambridge / David Rowland Regent REGCD511
The choir of Christ’s College is also in contemplative mood for this collection of major choral writing from British 20th-century composers, namely Finzi, Leighton, Howells and Walton. Music has played an important role
in the life of Christ’s College which spans 500 years. For the past 40 years there has been a mixed choir drawn predominantly from the college’s own students. Apart from concerts,
recordings and an annual foreign tour, the choir sings two choral services
a week in the college chapel. With six singers to a part under the direction
of David Rowland they make a fine sound in this thoughtfully constructed programme.
It takes its title from an early work by Herbert Howells; Even such is time is a setting of a text by Sir Walter Raleigh supposedly written on the night before his execution. There are two large-scale pieces of thoughtful and sombre writing – Finzi’s great Lo, the full, final sacrifice and Kenneth Leighton’s Crucifixus pro nobis. Herbert Howells’s Take him earth for cherishing, written following the assassination of President Kennedy in 1963, is another searching musical exploration of grief and loss. Walton is represented by his setting of the hymn Drop, drop slow tears, Where does the uttered music go and Set me as a seal. It is often said that composers’ finest writing is reserved for Lenten and Holy Week texts and there are plenty here! Yet Leighton’s Solus ad Victimam, which closes this collection, contains a glimmer of hope and triumph; the final line of Abelard’s text reads (in Helen Waddell’s translation), ‘Heavy with weeping may the three days pass to win the laughter of thine Easter Day.’ Stuart Robinson
The Choir of King’s College, Cambridge, Stephen Cleobury KGS0034
This CD was released earlier this year in time for the choir’s USA tour in the Spring. It opens with Monteverdi’s sprightly Cantate Domino – sung with an edgy Italianate feel. More baroque and renaissance fare follows with music by Scheidt and Palestrina and Lotti’s Crucifixus – the latter with a gentle organ backing. The press blurb describes this collection as a ‘celebration of choral music throughout the ages and around the world’. It is a splendid mix of familiar and the unfamiliar. Fauré’s Pie Jesu (sung by Joseph Hall with assured poise) and Mozart’s Ave verum corpus,
among other favourites, give way to
Ola Gjeilo’s Ubi caritas and Morton Lauridsen’s O magnum mysterium. The daily singing of psalmody is reflected here with beautifully unhurried performances of three favourites, namely Psalms 23, 130 and 121. Not a syllable is out of place. There are some unusual but pleasant pieces to close: Mo Li Hua (the Jasmine Flower Song), a traditional Chinese piece arranged by Stephen Cleobury, and
the American folksong Shenandoah. As well as the splendid music-making,
mention must be made of the recording quality. The choir’s own label has gone from strength to strength and it’s evident that there is a true understanding by Benjamin Sheen and others of the nature of what must surely be one of the best recording studios in the world.
Stuart Robinson
Christopher Allsop plays the Kenneth Tickell organ in Worcester CathedralPriory PRCD 1214
This collection of organ lollipops certainly has an arresting opening, namely Bach’s dramatic Toccata and Fugue in D minor played with bravura and panache. The fugue is fast but excitingly dramatic and energetic. Christopher Allsop was assistant director of music at Worcester Cathedral from 2004 until 2018 and

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