|1. Magnificat and Nunc Dimittis in G|
|2. The Sarum Magnificat and Nunc Dimittis|
|3. Collegium Sancti Johannis Cantabrigiense|
|4. The York Magnificat and Nunc Dimittis|
|5. Magnificat and Nunc Dimittis for Men's Voices and organ|
|6. New College, Oxford Service|
|7. Collegium Regale Service|
The Singers produce a sound almost indistinguishable from a typical cathedral choir, the women's voices pure and bright. They negotiate the unexpected twists and turns of Howells's melodies with grace, and can sing with impressive force and volume where necessary.
Although Howells wrote a smattering of canticles before 1945, it was not until that date that he launched himself on the series of Evening Services, each named after the cathedral, college chapel or church for which it was intended.
Priory has obviously ruled out recording each service in its eponymous building, and has settled on Marlborough College Chapel, which has no claim at all apart from its excellent, clear acoustics
Few of Howells's canticles, apart from the St Paul's, Gloucester and Collegium Regale services, could be called core repertoire, so Priory's decision to release all 20 Magnificat and Nunc dimittis settings is an enlightened one. This CD bodes well for the remaining four discs of the set.
© BBC Music Magazine 2000
The Collegiate Singers have a good Howells pedigree - their conductor, Andrew Millinger, runs the Howells Society; and their affinity with the musical style comes through loud and clear in this recording. It is refreshing to hear an amateur choir sound so professional, and this choir has quality written all over it. The organ playing of Richard Moorhouse is also first-rate; his registrations are sparkling and varied from the tuba in the York service to the quiet calm of the Collegium Regale. Andrew Millinger chooses sensitive tempi, makes good use of rubato and coaxes the best results from his choir.
Of course there are a few weak moments: there is a touch of flat singing from the gentlemen, which is especially noticeable in the Nunc of the St John's service; and the accompaniment of Roy Rashbrook's gentle tenor solo in the Collegium Regale is a little too intrusive. But, for the most part this is a choir in sparkling form. I still get a thrill of delight after several hearings from their amazing crescendos from forte to fortissimo (for example in the Gloria of the much under-performed Sarum masterpiece); from the delightful forte-piano in the New College Nunc Dimittis and from the continual sensitive singing from the women. Even in the harmonically hard York service, this is a choir equal to the highest demands.
If you are a fan of church music you have to buy this disc. If you're not, buy this disc and be converted!
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