Choral Favourites Evoke Romantic Spirit

Worcester Cathedral Chamber Choir performance of Elgar, Parry, Stanford and Vaughan Williams is joyful but lacks punch

Title: Rise Heart
Composer: Elgar, Parry, Stanford and Vaughan Williams
Repertoire:  Romantic English choral works
Artists: Ben Cooper (bar), George Castle (org), Worcester Cathedral Chamber Choir/ Stephen Shellard
Rating:  3/5
Genre: Vocal
Label: Regent REGCD369

The Music: The spirit of Hubert Parry, a favourite composer of the present Prince of Wales, presides over this album. His grand anthem Hear my words, ye people of 1894, and My soul, there is a country, a poignant product of the First World War, showcase Parry’s considerable talents. This album also includes Vaughan Williams’s Five Mystical Songs, George Herbert settings crowned by ‘let all the world in ev’ry corner sing’.

The Performance: Worcester Cathedral Chamber Choir, established by Stephen Shellard in 1998, underlines the musical strength in depth to be found in Britain’s cathedral churches. This album evokes the romantic spirit of music from another age, one all too easily labelled with the tarnished epithet ‘Edwardian’. Elgar’s Memorial Ode for Queen Alexandra of 1932, practically unknown until its recent revival, emerges under Shellard’s direction as much more than an exercise in nostalgia. Choir, conductor and organist also tease out turbulent emotions from below the elegiac surface of the same composer’s The Spirit of the Lord is upon me. elsewhere, as in the Five Mystical Songs, the choristers and youthful soloist fall short on expressive intensity and emotional engagement.

The Verdict: While joyful singing and intriguing repertoire combinations boost this album’s appeal, its cause is hampered by a lack of choral punch and the ensemble energy required to create captivating dynamic and tonal contrasts.

Want More? Worcester Cathedral Chamber Choir’s outstanding recording of Vaughan Williams’s Christmas cantata Hodie (Regent, REGCD 330) provides ample reason to be jolly.