With yuletide expressions both traditional and
contemporary, this CD from the Choir of Wellington Cathedral of St. Paul (in Wellington, New Zealand)
explores a vast musical landscape. Nestled snugly among perennial carol
favorites are works by 20th-century British choral masters, luminous modern
American classics, and recently composed works by New Zealand composers Andrew
Baldwin and Geoffrey Coker. Fabulous cathedral acoustics complement solid
foundations provided by organ (1877 T. C. Lewis enlarged to 81stops, 3,531pipes)
and brass. Michael Fulcher directs the Choir; Richard Apperley plays most of
the accompaniments; Thomas Gaynor, organ scholar, accompanies “Once in Royal
David’s City.” The Wellington Cathedral Choir’s previous recording, Raven OAR-630 “From Darkness to
Light,” has received universally enthusiastic reviews and remains available.
Tidings, tidings that be true (Peter Aston, b. 1938)
Once in royal David’s city (arr. James O’Donnell, b.
The angel Gabriel (arr. Pettman, 1865-1943)
A maiden most gentle (Andrew Carter, b. 1939)
God is with us (John Tavener, b. 1944)
O magnum mysterium (Andrew Baldwin. b. 1986)
O magnum mysterium (Morten Lauridsen, b. 1943)
Splendours of nature (Geoffrey Coker, b. 1949)
Lux aurumque (Eric Whitacre, b. 1970)
Sing lullaby (Herbert Howells, 1892-1983)
Lullay my liking
Away in a manger (arr. David Hill, b. 1957)
The Salutation (Geoffrey Coker, b. 1949)
Bethlehem Down (Peter Warlock, 1894-1930)
Hark, the herald angels sing (arr. David Hill)
For Him all stars have shone (Bob Chilcott, b. 1955)
O come, all ye faithful (arr. David Hill)Reviews James Hildredth in The American Organist, November 2015, pp. 90-91
This smartly assembled program of choral music reflecting the advent and incarnation of Christ includes a mix of 17 cherished chestnuts and less familiar yet appealing text settings by 20th- and 21st-century stylistically diverse composers from Britain, the United States, and New Zealand. Anthems are interspersed with carol arrangements. The complete program with listings of composers and titles may be found at the Raven website. The program begins with the topics of the Advent and Annunciation, followed by texts of Adoration, commenting on the birth of Christ. Three contrasting lullabies precede a reflection on the gifts of the Magi. Two traditional carols featuring the full forces of choir, organ, and brass frame a more serene vision of peace on earth to conclude the program.
Under the masterful leadership of Michael Fulcher, the 26-voice choir and soloists perform beautifully throughout, conveying the spirit of the texts and the stylistic substance of each work. They sing with clear diction; transparent yet solid, well-balanced vocalism; fine intonation; and subtlety of expression and dynamic contrast. Organ scholar Thomas Gaynor, who is baritone soloist in Geoffrey Coker's The Salutation, is organ accompanist in James O'Donnell's arrangement of Once in Royal David's City. Richard Apperley provides all other organ accompaniments. Both use the resources of the large instrument creatively, skillfully supporting the singers. The resonant brass sextet adds luster and brilliance in some of the carol arrangements.
This excellently produced recording of Christmas music will find a place of pride among the wealth of recordings celebrating the season.