Fabulous reviews in The American Organist and The American Record Guide. Please see them at the bottom of this page.
Choirs of the Cathedral of St. John, Albuquerque, New Mexico
Maxine Thévenot, director
Edmund Connolly, organist
+Maxine Thévenot, organist
§ Cathedral Chamber Choir
* First Recording
Dietrich Buxtehude: In Dulci Jubilo, BuxWV +
Harold Darke: In the bleak midwinter
Todd Parker: Ave Marla § *
Andrew Carter: Hodie Christus Natus Est
John Tavener: The lamb §
David Willcocks, arr.: Once In Royal David's City (Gauntlet/Mann)
Andrew Carter arr.: A maiden most gentle (French traditional)
Philip Ledger: A little child there is yborn §
Robin Milford: In Dulci Jubilo *
David Willcocks, arr.: O come, All ye faithful (John Francis Wade)
John Rutter: Star Carol
Cecilia McDowall: Before the Paling of the Stars
Philip Moore, arr.: Watts’ Cradle Song § (C. V. Stanford)
Cesar Franck: Panis Angelicus +
McNeil Robinson, arr.: Silent Night § * (Franz Gruber)
J. S. Bach: In Dulci Jubilo, BWV 729 +
Christmas: a time of year when many of us are able to retreat to cozy spaces, fireplaces, pots of tea; to share time with family and friends and, from the recesses of the cupboard, to take out our favourite music to listen to. Maybe you enjoy listening to music while you do the cooking, or your Christmas baking, or while writing cards to those loved ones you won't see this Christmastide. Or maybe you prefer just sitting quietly with the CD booklet to hand and listening.
There's nothing more evocative of Christmas than the sound of choirs singing old, familiar carols and perhaps sharing a new carol or two with you. The Cathedral Choir and Choiristers of the Cathedral of St. John invite you to find the quiet, find the space, pour yourself a glass of something to comfort and cheer you, and spend an hour with us, listening to In DuIci Jubilo. Join us in the singing of your favourite carols this Christmastide.
Notes on the Music by Maxine Thévenot
The tune of In Dulci Jubilo dates back to the early 15th century and was a favourite to set among composers of both instrumental and choral music. Roughly translated, the title means ‘In quiet joy’, or ‘In sweet rejoicing’.
1. Dietrich Buxtehude (1637-1709) set this melody as a chorale prelude: a short, liturgical composition using the chorale tune as its basis. The chorale prelude was a common form of the German Baroque and may have been used to introduce a hymn of the same melody.
16. Johann Sebastian Bach (1685-1750) also set In Dulci Jubilo as a chorale prelude, BWV 729, which is most often heard as the first organ voluntary following the Festival of Nine Lessons and Carols at King's College, Cambridge, England. Both chorale prelude settings are heard as performed by Maxine Thévenot.
2. Harold Darke (1888-1976): In the bleak midwinter (Christina Rosetti)
Harold Darke, CBE, English composer and organist, studied composition with Charles Villiers Stanford. He championed the works of Ralph Vaughan Williams and Charles Hubert Hastings Parry during his 50 years as Director of Music & Organist at St. Michael's Cornhill, London, UK. His setting of In the bleak midwinter, voted the greatest Christmas carol of all time, in a 2008 BBC Music magazine poll, by choral music specialists the world over, has immortalized this text by Christina Rosetti. The soloists on this recording are Jordyn Tatum and Todd Parker.
3. Todd Parker (b. 1965): Ave Maria (First Recording)
Todd Parker has had a long association with the Cathedral of St. John. Educated at the University of New Mexico, Edinburgh University, Oxford University, and Cornell University, he has worked as a college professor, a hospital and homeless shelter chaplain, and is currently a long-term care facility nurse. After finishing his PhD at Cornell, he taught at DePaul University for 11 years before leaving to explore the religious life as a Franciscan brother, where he worked with San Francisco's homeless population. His career as a musician began when he joined the Choir of the Cathedral of St. John as tenor soloist in 1986, and the Cathedral Choir helped to form his musical sensibilities. His setting of the Ave Maria (2014) is dedicated to his friend and mentor, the composer Mary Badarak, and is a gift to the Cathedral Choir and their director, in gratitude for its ministry and for its dedication to preserving and enriching the Anglican choral tradition.
4. Andrew Carter (b. 1939): Hodie Christus Natus Est
Andrew Carter's macaronic text is married with constantly shifting keys and changing meters to keep us all on our toes. The Cathedral Choir and Choristers were blessed to have the composer in residence for 2 weeks in May 2014 when they had the opportunity to sing his music in concert, under his enthusiastic direction.
5. John Tavener (1944-2013): The Lamb (William Blake)
John Tavener wrote The Lamb in one afternoon in 1982. Its simplicity, (the melody uses just seven notes) and child-like vision perhaps explain its great popularity in a world that is starved of this precious and sacred dimension in almost every aspect of life.
6. Sir David Willcocks (1919-2015), arranger: Once in Royal David's City (H. J. Gauntlett, harmonized by A. H. Mann)
While edits for this recording were in progress, we lost another giant of the Anglican choral tradition in Sir David Willcocks. Willcocks is particularly well-known for his descants to beloved Christmas carols such as Once in Royal David's City and O Come all ye faithful, and for his time as Director of the Choir of King's College, Cambridge, 1957-1974. The soloist for verse 1 is Jordyn Tatum, and verses 2 and 3 are sung by the Cathedral Chamber Choir.
7. Andrew Carter (b.1939), arranger: A maiden most gentle (traditional French melody)
One of Andrew Carter's many popular carols, A maiden most gentle (text by the composer) sets a lilting, traditional melody against a sparkling organ accompaniment. The varied choral textures build to a double-choir climax on the final Ave Maria.
8. Sir Philip Ledger (1938-2012): A little child there is yborn
Sir Philip Ledger's A Little child there is yborn is a joyful, light-hearted carol. To some listeners, it may suggest the influence of the composer's time with Benjamin Britten while serving as artistic director of the Aldeburgh Festival. Ledger was later Director of the Choir at King's College, Cambridge, 1974-1982, succeeding David Willcocks.
9. Robin Milford (1903-1959): In Dulci Jubilo (First Recording)
That the name of Robin Milford is not better known today tells us more of the vicissitudes of the world of music than of the quality of his output. Born the son of Sir Humphrey Milford, founder of the music department of Oxford University Press, Robin Milford enjoyed a prosperous upbringing and studied organ and composition at the Royal College of Music, where his composition teachers were Gustav Holst and Ralph Vaughan Williams. The latter once wrote to the conductor Adrian Boult, "lf I wanted to show the intelligent foreigner something worth doing which could only possibly come out of England, I think I would show him something of the work of Milford."
11. John Rutter (b. 1945): Star Carol
John Rutter, CBE, has, with Sir David Willcocks, co-edited four volumes in the Carols for Choirs series, in addition to many other published volumes such as European Sacred Music and the Oxford Choral Classics series. His compositional career has embraced both large and small-scale choral works, orchestral and instrumental pieces, a piano concerto, two children's operas, music for television and specialist writing for such groups as the King's Singers. Star Carol (text by the composer) is a favourite carol at the Cathedral, especially with the younger choristers.
12. Cecilia McDowalI (b.1951): Before the Paling of the Stars (Christina Rosetti)
In this beautiful, tender carol, winner of the 2014 BASCA British Composer award Cecilia McDowalI sets an affecting text by Christina Rosetti that tells the story of Jesus’ birth. Commissioned (2012) and first performed by The Choir of the Royal Memorial Chapel, Sandhurst (Peter Beaven, director) this carol has quickly become a favourite in our Christmas repertoire at the Cathedral. Harmonically, expect the unexpected, alongside a shimmery musical soundscape. The soloist is Melody Hett.
13. Philip Moore (b. 1943), arranger: Watts’ Cradle Song (Isaac Watts, music Sir Charles Villiers Stanford [1852-1924])
Arranged by a good friend to our Cathedral Choirs, Philip Moore was our composer in residence in the spring of 2012 and has written us several beautiful anthems since. This particular carol arrangement sets the text of Isaac Watts’ popular ‘Cradle Song’ to the music of Stanford's lullaby, ‘Golden slumbers, kiss your eyes’, from his Six Songs (1882). Each of the four verses presents the melody in a different light. The soloists are Meredith Wilder and Melody Hett.
14. César Franck (1822-1890): Panis Angelicus (Saint Thomas Aquinas)
The Cathedral Choristers, founded in 2006 at the Cathedral, has blossomed in recent years to include choristers who have toured, made professional recordings and, most recently, premiered anthems with solos written expressly for them in such venues as Winchester Cathedral and Westminster Abbey on the Cathedral Choirs’ 2014 UK Tour. This sacred masterpiece by French composer Cesar Franck features two of our Cathedral Choristers: Jordyn Tatum (soprano I) and Iris Thornton-Gonzalez (soprano ll).
15. McNeil Robinson (1943-2015), arranger: Silent Night (First Recording; Franz Xaver, text, Franz Gruber (1787-1863), music
McNeil Robinson had a relationship with Christ Episcopal Church, Manhasset, NY for many years thanks to his friendship with the Rector, David Lowry, which resulted in several new works commissioned and premiered there since the 1980s. While I was Director of Music & Organist at Christ Episcopal (2000-2003), I found several choral pieces by McNeil Robinson in their choral library. Amongst these was this gem of an arrangement of Silent Night, complete with a beautiful descant, sung here by Jordyn Tatum and Melody Hett.
THE CHOIRS OF THE CATHEDRAL OF ST. JOHN
The Cathedral Choir is recognized as one of the finest choral ensembles in the southwestern United States. In addition to Sunday morning responsibilities, the Cathedral Choir sings for monthly services of Choral Evensong, on major feasts, participates in the Cathedral Commissions program, participates in community outreach concerts with other musical organizations such as the New Mexico Philharmonic, and is well-known for its internationally released recordings with Raven CD. Tours form an important part of the Cathedral Choir's evangelism to the greater musical and liturgical community. The Cathedral Choir has sung in such prestigious venues as Saint Thomas’ Church, Fifth Avenue, New York City; Washington National Cathedral; St. George's Chapel, Windsor; Canterbury Cathedral; St. Paul's Cathedral and Southwark Cathedral, London; York Minster, and most recently in residence at both Winchester Cathedral and Westminster Abbey in the summer of 2014.
The Cathedral Chorister program offers to children aged 8-16 a unique musical experience working with other children in preparation and weekly performance of the finest choral music written for children's voices. Choristers form friendships with other music-loving children from Albuquerque and beyond. They receive expert instruction in music-reading and ensemble performance skills, and enjoy educational excursions to concerts of the New Mexico Philharmonic Orchestra and other ensembles. Participation in summer courses of the Royal School of Church Music throughout the USA is encouraged and also forms an important part of the program. The Choristers have toured to New York City, Washington, D.C. and England.
Dr. Maxine Thévenot, Canon Precentor, Director of Cathedral Music and Organist
Appointed Canon Precentor in 2014, Dr. Thévenot has served as Director of Cathedral Music and Organist since 2010. Prior to that she was Acting Director of Music (Fall 2009) and Associate Organist-Choir Director (2005-2009). She oversees and directs a program consisting of four choirs which tour nationally and internationally; produces the recordings of the Cathedral Choirs for the Raven CD label; and manages an extensive community outreach ministry, Friends of Cathedral Music, in cooperation with the Cathedral's food pantry. She collaborates with the Diocese of the Rio Grande in all major Diocesan events at the cathedral including all diocesan ordinations and an annual Diocesan Choral Festival (since 2010). Dr. Thevenot has also engaged in furthering the reach of the cathedral's music program to other, smaller parishes within the diocese by taking members of the cathedral choir to sing with and for these parishes.
Begun in 2006 through the Friends of Cathedral Music, the annual commissioning of new works for the Cathedral Choirs offers a unique opportunity for composers, the cathedral choirs and congregation alike to interact within the context of rehearsals, liturgy and at the Dean's Forum and sometimes at special choir fundraising events. In recent years, our commissioned composers have included such luminaries as Philip Moore (UK), Andrew Carter (UK), Nicholas White (UK/USA), Andrew Ager (CAN) and Stephanie Martin (CAN).
The Cathedral Choirs have released critically acclaimed recordings under Dr. Thevenot's direction, and more with her as the organ accompanist, all available on the Raven CD label. Her compositions are published by Paraclete Press. Active within the musical community at large, Maxine Thévenot serves as Director of the University of New Mexico women's choir, Las Cantantes. She has also served her community as chorus master for the New Mexico Philharmonic's Beethoven Symphony no. 9 performance at Popejoy Hall (Fall 2014) as well as presenting the New Mexican premiere of Bob Chilcott’s Requiem with the Cathedral Choirs (Spring 2014). Dr. Thévenot was Musical Director for the New Mexican premiere of the gonzo opera, Too Much Coffee Man, by Daniel Steven Crafts (Fall 2013) and chorus master for both the New Mexico Philharmonic's performances of Brahms’ Ein Deutsches Requiem (2013) and their Holiday Pops concerts (December 2013 & 2012). In 2013, she conducted two performances of Bach's St. John Passion with her professional ensemble Polyphony: Voices of New Mexico and the NM Philharmonic, the first known complete performances of this work, in German, in Albuquerque. During the 2015 season she presented the New Mexican premiere of James MacMillan's Seven Last Words from the Cross with Polyphony: Voices of New Mexico.
A native of Saskatchewan, Canada, Canon Dr. Thévenot received her Bachelor’s Degree in Music Education from the University of Saskatchewan, and her Master of Music and Doctor of Musical Arts degrees from Manhattan School of Music. At Manhattan School she was twice awarded the Bronson Ragan Award for “Most Outstanding Organist". Maxine is an Associate of the Royal Canadian College of Organists and the Royal Conservatory of Music, Toronto, and was made an Honorary Fellow of the National College of Music, London, UK in 2006 for her ‘services to music’.
Edmund Connolly, Assistant Organist-Choir Director
A native of London, UK, Edmund Connolly studied Music at Robinson College, Cambridge, where he was an organ scholar. He undertook postgraduate study at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama in the City of London where he studied voice under Professor David Pollard. A year after graduating with his Master of Music degree, Edmund was appointed a Professor of Music Studies at the Guildhall School, a position he held from 2004-2011.
Over recent years Edmund Connolly has forged a career as an opera and concert singer, organist, piano accompanist and conductor, as well as developing a reputation as a private teacher and vocal coach to young professional singers. His students have included young singers preparing roles for the major UK opera companies and advanced students from the major London conservatoires. He currently maintains a busy voice studio in Albuquerque, New Mexico.
A lyric baritone, Edmund has sung major operatic roles in the UK and abroad. He has sung and understudied roles for companies including Glyndebourne Festival Opera, English Touring Opera and Garsington Opera, and his reputation as an intelligent, adaptable singer means he is in demand in music of all periods. He has also performed much major oratorio repertoire as a soloist: most recently, he has appeared as baritone soloist with the New Mexico Philharmonic in performances of Beethoven's Symphony no. 9, Bach's St. John Passion and Brahms‘ Ein Deutsches Requiem, and with Polyphony: Voices of New Mexico in performances of Handel's Messiah.
Edmund Connolly is Assistant Organist-Choir Director at the Cathedral of St. John, where he
accompanies the Cathedral Choir and Choristers in liturgies and concerts and is responsible for all musical and liturgical publications. At the Cathedral, he also directs the Cathedral Cherubs (ages 3-8) and the Cathedral Chorale, a volunteer ensemble which participates in select services and concerts during the season. Edmund is also Upper School Chorus Director at Albuquerque Academy.
Writes James Hildreth in the The American Organist, December 2016:
The choirs of St. John’s Cathedral in Albuquerque have assembled a delightful program of sacred Christmas music including the familiar and the new. The full choir comprises 46 voices (18-1l-7-10) of which 20 form the mixed-voice Cathedral Chamber Choir and 8 form the treble Cathedral Choristers.
A full listing of program details and notes can be found at the Raven website. Perennial favorites such as Darke’s In the Bleak Midwinter, Franck’s Panis angelicus, Rutter's Star Carol, and the Willcock's arrangements of Once in Royal David’s City and O Come, All Ye Faithful are complemented by less familiar but equally attractive works such as Philip Ledger’s A Little Child There Is Born, Andrew Carter’s Hodie Christus natus est, and Cecilia McDowall’s Before the Paling of the Stars. Of special interest are ﬁrst recordings of two works. Todd Parker, a tenor soloist with the Cathedral Choir, composed his exquisite Ave Maria in 2014 as a gift to the choir. The late McNeil Robinson’s arrangement of Silent Night is
elegant in its simplicity, discreet, fresh harmonizations, and ﬂoating descant.
Maxine Thévenot masterfully guides her singers in performances that are distinctive in their thoughtful, carefully crafted phrases, lovingly wrought with excellent diction, uniform balance, effective dynamic shading, and clean rhythm governed by well-controlled tempos. The sound is vibrant and clear. Organist Edmund Connolly, who is also a professional lyric baritone, collaborates in the accompanied numbers, balancing the ﬁne Reuter with technical skill and musical sensitivity.
Thévenot takes the organ bench in ﬁne performances of three contrasting settings of In Dulci Jubilo. Opening the program is Buxtehude’s setting (BuxWV 197) with its ornamented cantus. Concluding the program is J. S. Bach’s vigorous setting (BWV 729) made famous as the postlude of the annual King’s College Festival of Lessons and Carols. Robin Milford's setting serves as an interlude to the choral program. This is its first recording. Milford provides spicy harmonies that give a refreshing new cast to the familiar melody.
This recording will be a welcome addition to any Christmas collection.
Writes Donald Vroon in the American Record Guide, Fall, 2016:
We at ARG face Christmas in July and August every year, in the form of at least 50 CD issues. This one stood out for me. First of all, the choir is simply wonderful. They are beatuifully balanced and sound utterly natural--yet much of what they sing is quite sophisticated. Even much-recorded pieces like David Willcocks's arrangements of Once in Royal David's City and O Come All Ye Faithful are beautifully done--and never overdone. The choral director is Maxine Thevenot, and you will hear men, boys, women, and girls in various combinations. Even the soloists--fine as they are--are mixed, and someone named "Jordyn" may very well be a girl. It doesn't matter when they are so good.
Out of the 16 pieces (13 choral, 3 organ alone), I marked 7 that I especially liked, including some new pieces and arrangements. There were only 3 that I won't return to (all new). All 3 organ pieces are In Dulci Jubilo: Buxtehude, Milford and of course Bach--his ends the program gloriously.
Episcopal cathedrals are often great places for music.