A friend of mine once described my musical tastes in these few words: "You like a good tune." On this CD, we are treated to many good tunes. All the music is beautiful, well-crafted and of a traditional nature and illustrates what a wonderful legacy of fine music and beautiful words has been handed down to us to treasure and enjoy.
The Choir of `ST MICHAEL AT THE NORTH GATE' in Oxford gives a polished performance in the Chapel of Exeter College, Oxford - a building often used by choirs for their recordings because of its fine acoustic and splendid organ. The Choir and organ do not, for the most part disappoint, although I sometimes found it difficult to catch the final consonants of some of the words sung. There is an exemplary CD booklet containing much fascinating information, not only about the music and Choir, but also some historical background. This is one of the best recording projects I have come across for quite some time.
The programme of music could not be better. I had never heard the complete `Short Requiem' by Walford Davies and this did, apparently, inspire the Requiem composed by Herbert Howells. Many people will know Walford Davies because of his Anglican Psalm chants (two of which feature in this `Short Requiem') and the two lovely miniatures, 'God be in my head' and `Blessed are the pure in heart'. I especially liked the `Gloria Patri' which forms the penultimate section of his Requiem. `The Firmament', by the late John Sanders, a former organist of Gloucester Cathedral, is a lively work, whilst `Let not your hearts be troubled' by present-day composer, Paul Spicer (who wrote most of the notes in the CD booklet) is a more reflective and meditative composition; both works deserve a place on this model CD. The star piece on this recording is Vaughan Williams' `Service in D Minor', written for `Christ's Hospital' School. This sets music for the three main Sunday services of Mattins, Holy Communion and Evensong. As one would expect from Vaughan Williams, the music is extremely tuneful with lovely, flowing lines. Vaughan Williams was well-known for his love of English folk melodies and this interest seems to have been reflected in so much of his music. This is the first recording of the Service in D Minor and one would hope that it will become more widely-known. The setting of the Communion Service is unusual in that it was written for choir and congregation. All the music on this CD is, in my opinion, music of the highest quality that will stand the test of time; how much of the music written by other present-day composers will also do this, I wonder ?
Most of the words set to music on this recording come from the Book of Common Prayer and the `Prayer Book Society' is one of the sponsors of this CD. We do indeed possess a rich heritage of music and words and no lack of extremely able musicians to compose, sing and record it. Praise should also go to the `Regent' Records team for another first-class recording.
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