'Simple Gifts' Aaron Copland
These seasonal favourites are approached with reverence and a commitment to the best possible delivery.
Composer: Rutter, Poston, RR Bennett, Burton, Warlock, Joubert, Finnissy, Tavener
Repertoire: A selection of Christmas favourites
Artists: Choir of St John’s College, Cambridge/Andrew Nethsingha
Label: Chandos CHSA5096
The Music: Tradition informs this shrewd choice of Christmas carols and original compositions, touching everything from familiar favourites such as Mendelssohn’s Hark! The Herald Angels Sing to the bell-like sonorities of Matthew Martin’s Adam lay ybounden.
The Performance: I’ve been a fan of the St John’s sound since first hearing the choir in full-throated song almost 40 years ago. The collective vocal heft of the ensemble’s young choral scholars remains a potent weapon under Andrew Nethsingha’s direction. He’s a man of musical refinement, however, one ready and able to rein in eager tenors and basses where the melodic interest lies in the gift of his choir’s boy trebles. For a taste of the choral blend’s subtlety, sample Philip Ledger’s a cappella arrangement of Silent Night or Tavener’s The Lamb. Words, their colour and meaning, emerge as essential shaping forces in these engaging performances.
The Verdict: This release stands out thanks to the commitment to quality and high artistic values shown here by St John’s College Choir and Chandos.