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Leighton: Sacred Choral Works

Choir of St Mary’s Cathedral, Edinburgh/Duncan Ferguson, et al (Delphian)

Our rating 
4.0 out of 5 star rating 4.0

Missa Sancti Petri; Lully, Lulla; What love is this of thine?; Of a rose is all my song; Awake my glory; Crucifixus pro nobis, etc
Samuel Jenkins (tenor), Joseph Beech (organ); Choir of St Mary’s Cathedral, Edinburgh/Duncan Ferguson
Delphian DCD 34218  79:36 mins

Kenneth Leighton was born 90 years ago in Wakefield, Yorkshire, and this recording was made to celebrate the anniversary. Leighton sang as a chorister in Wakefield Cathedral, and the sense of ecclesiastical theatrics he absorbed from that experience is evident in ‘Lift up your heads, O ye gates’, the vibrantly pulsing anthem which opens this recital. It uses short motifs deployed in multiple layers, all punchily articulated by the St Mary’s Cathedral choir and given expressive cogency by its director Duncan Ferguson.

Leighton wrote a number of pieces for St Mary’s, including ‘Awake my glory’ for the cathedral’s centenary. Again, it’s Ferguson’s strong grasp of the piece’s architecture which impresses, and the vibrantly assured response of the singers in all four voice-parts.

Crucifixus pro nobis and Missa Sancti Petri are the two biggest pieces here, lasting 20 minutes each. The Crucifixus has a hefty part for solo tenor, affectingly delivered by Samuel Jenkins, while the choir makes a particularly rapt contribution in the concluding ‘Drop, drop slow tears’ setting. Jenkins is joined by treble Finn Hart-Brown and bass Alan Rowland for the solos in the Missa, whose disquieted Agnus Dei receives an especially touching, at times searing interpretation. Throughout, organist Joseph Beech provides a sensitive underpinning to the choir’s sharply communicative singing.

Delphian’s sound is excellent, as are Andrew Burn’s booklet notes on the music. As a single-disc introduction to Leighton’s choral music – and there aren’t too many available – this is an easy recommendation.


Terry Blain