Monday 18 February 2019

Choral music for Advent and Christmas from Portsmouth

 Verbum caro factum est: Advent and Christmas music from Portsmouth; Choir of Portsmouth Cathedral, David Price
Verbum caro factum est: Advent and Christmas music from Portsmouth; Choir of Portsmouth Cathedral, David Price; Herald AV Reviewed by Robert Hugill on 13 February 2019
An imaginative selection of music moving from Advent through to Epiphany, showcasing the choirs of Portsmouth Cathedral

Rather embarrassingly, this disc made it onto the wrong pile, so instead of including it in my 2018 Christmas CD round-up, I am listening to a disc of music for Advent and Christmas in the middle of February. But it is a disc worth listening to.

For Verbum caro factum est on Herald AV, David Price and the choir of Portsmouth Cathedral have recorded a selection of music which they performed at carol services during 2017. In his booklet note, Price comments that the cathedral hosts a huge number of carol services from the beginning of Advent right through to Epiphany.

On the disc, the cathedral choir is made up of nearly 30 boys with fifteen Lay Clerks and choral scholars. A second group, Cantate, features the girl choristers along with teenage boys, and there is also a third group on the disc, the Cathedral Consort which features adult singers, with different tracks being performed by different combinations of these three.

The repertoire on the disc is wonderfully unhackneyed, and though many pieces are perhaps familiar to choristers and choir members, they form an attractively unusual selection.
There is a generous selection of contemporary music. Sarah MacDonald's fine Matin Responsory was written for the chapel choir of Selwyn College of which she is director of music. Tim Rogers' carol. Sinful Adam, sets a striking text by Robin Morrish about the birth of Original Sin, a very medieval subject for a carol. And I very much enjoyed Andrew Carter's unhackneyed version of Veni Emmanuel and Carter also contributes Mary's Magnificat. No Christmas disc would be complete without John Rutter and here we have There is a flower dedicated to Dr George Guest and the choir of St John's College, Cambridge. The final living composer is Philip Stopford whose rather lovely version of The Coventry Carol comes towards the end of the disc.

The disc's gems do not stop there. George Malcolm's Missa ad praesepe was entirely new to me. It was written for the choir of Westminster Cathedral, Malcolm's own choir. Other 20th century figures featured include Philip Ledger's on Christmas Night and William Walton's All this Time a piece which has somehow escaped general attention. And of course there is John Gardner's Tomorrow shall be my dancing day. Rather rarer, at least to my ears, is the Ave Maria by the German composer Franz Biebl (1906-2001) written for the men of the choir (ATB). This is rather romantic but very affecting.

The disc is complete by a pair of organ solos performed by David Price, and a selection of arrangements.

It is a delightful disc, and there is plenty of interest in it to brighten up a dull February evening.

Verbum Caro Factum Est: Advent and Christmas Music from Portsmouth.
Choir of Portsmouth Cathedral
David Price (director)
Available from Amazon.

Elsewhere on this blog:
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  • An obsession with Norse myths: composer Gavin Higgins introduces his new opera The Monstrous Child  - interview
  • Delightful harmonies: Carl Czerny's arrangement of Beethoven's Septet (★★) - concert review
  • Verdi in Oman: La traviata at the Royal Opera House, Muscat (★★) - opera review
  • Youth shines: Savitri Grier in Elgar's Violin Concerto - concert review
  • From play to opera: Marlowe's Edward II and Benjamin & Crimp's Lessons in Love & Violence - feature article 
  • A romantic at heart: I chat to violinist Sarah Chang about her forthcoming Cadogan Hall recital - interview
  • A jolly good show: Verdi's Un ballo in maschera at Welsh National Opera  (★★) - opera review
  • From the Pens of Women: Kitty Whately on her forthcoming Wigmore Hall recital & the challenges of bringing music by women composers to the fore - interview
  • Black composers series 1974-1978 - CD review
  • In the hell of a small town: Janacek's Kat'a Kabanova at the Royal Opera (★★) - opera review
  • Home

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