Bell whips Britten and Poston into a frenzy

Christopher Bell leads the Girls of the National Youth Choir of Scotland on an urgent performance of Britten and Posten works

Composer: Britten, Poston
Repertoire: A Ceremony of Carols; An English Day-Book
Artists: Claire Jones (hp), Girls of the National Youth Choir of Scotland/Christopher Bell
Rating:  3/5
Genre: Vocal
Label: Signum SIGCD 228

The Music Feeling guilty for having abandoned his country, Britten composed A Ceremony of Carols while risking torpedoes on the boat back to Blighty in 1942. Bitter nostalgia underpins the settings of medieval poetry. Poston’s charming sequence was originally composed for choir and piano. It includes Sweet Suffolk Owl, a hit for Poston in the 1920s. 

The Performance Bell conducts both cycles with an urgent flow and, in the Britten, a sense of biting anger in This Little Babe and Deo Gracias. Yet he misses the Alleluia’s evocative hocket in the Procession and the words are not always clear. The voices are rich toned, well-balanced and powered by developing teenage musculature. These are not the innocent boys’ voices Britten intended. But they are probably those Poston had in mind. The Day-Book has secular charm and a plaintive soloist in the Suffolk Owl. The singers’ Scottish brogue suits the antique poetry. 

The Verdict The choir’s lovely vocal quality is let down by slack enunciation and missed details. The pairing with Poston (re-arranged for harp) is a touch of genius though and one may expect it to be taken up by others. 

Want More? The Finchley Children’s Choir (founded by Britten) match A Ceremony of Carols with Noye’s Fludde on Somm (SOMM CD 212). Rick Jones