What a delight this CD is! Fresh, energetic singing, lovely tone from the choir, complemented by beautifully executed solos. The span of pieces is particularly impressive, with the choir successfully presenting a range of moods and emotions. The notes are particularly interesting, providing background on the development of carols and Christmas singing through the centuries. We plan to listen to a track each day during Advent - in true Advent Calendar fashion. A novel CD that stands out amongst the many Christmas CDs.
I first came across this choir when I heard their Requiem CD last year. This CD is proof that the choir can radiate fun and Christmas spirit as much as they can tackle more serious works. The performances are unusually energetic and punchy, which gives it an edge other Christmas CDs which can be a little saccharine. The programme is really eclectic mix of old favourites, a few rather obscure carols and a couple of newly commissioned pieces. The two soloists (Jeremy Carpenter and Mary-Louise Aitken) are fine and complement the full-bodied tone of the choir very nicely. In particular the Rutter pieces sparkle and are among the best tracks on the CD. I also really enjoyed the alternative version of Poston's "Jesus Christ the Apple Tree" (with a beautiful round at the end) and the choir's excellent rendition of Gardner's "Tomorrow shall be me dancing day" - so upbeat and full of energy. Among the three new carols written for this CD is "The Seven Joys of Mary" (written by Bellowhead's Paul Sartin), an odd mix of a jolly folk tune and Messiaen-inspired organ interludes, but the choir manages to bring this piece to life and it's now one of my favourite tracks. A couple of the tracks have not come off as well as could be desired - the balance between the choir and the soloists in "Jacob's Ladder" is less than ideal - but there are more than enough gems in here to make this a must for every Christmas stocking!
No doubt about it, the cover alone of this CD holds the promise of something special - sparkling wee gems to entice the listener through a favourite time of the year. No MP3 version (yet! next time please) so, as I could not have a preview listen to samples first, I pretty much bought this album on the anticipation of this promise. I was not disappointed. This young and vibrant choir produces a mature and sumptuous sound under the direction of MD, David Crown, and takes the listener on a winding tour across the ages and around the world, weaving together the best of everything - four strong Bach chorales (to mark the Sundays) mixing effortlessly with traditional favourites and other beauties such as 'Jesus Christ The Apple Tree' (an excellent arrangement by English composer Elizabeth Poston), 'Bethlehem Down' & 'Veiled In Darkness'. Professional soloists, Mary-Louise Aitken and Jeremy Carpenter bring textures that sparkle and float throughout, layering the depths of this album with further riches. Fabulous. If you buy just one album this Christmas let it be this. Mine is already well played and will be filed into Christmas Favourites for years to come.
ps the notes are interesting and fun - well worth the read.
I am not a huge fan of choral music but I have to say that this wonderful CD has completely changed that! The choir of Somerville College, Oxford have done a fantastic job of creating the perfect countdown to Christmas. I would highly recommend this product to anyone who wants to get in the spirit of Christmas.