WORKS: Carols for Advent and Christmas Eve
PERFORMER: Choir of St Paul’s Cathedral, EnglishBrass Ensemble/John Scott
CATALOGUE NO: GMCD 7152
Is there a more satisfying Christmas sequence than Benjamin Britten’s A Ceremony of Carols? It’s a question I often find myself asking as I aurally unwrap my annual stockingful of seasonal CDs, to an increasingly grumpy ostinato of ‘How nice, just what I wanted… another Carlton compilation disc’. Even when, as this year, there is no new recording of the Britten to review, the spirit of Ceremonies past returns to haunt my Christmases present whenever another composer makes so bold as to challenge Britten on his own hallowed ground.
This year’s new release, CHRISTMAS MUSIC FROM ST PAUL’S, on Guild, is worthy but dull by comparison. For a truly revelatory programme, though (and one that does take Britten’s Ceremony, at least partly, as its cue), try Andrew Parrott’s THE PROMISE OF ACES, which Sony might safely have named ‘Quite Simply the Best Christmas Album Ever’ had not that title already been nabbed by a rival label.