Howells: Complete Morning and Evening Canticles, Vol. 1

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COMPOSERS: Howells
LABELS: Priory
WORKS: Complete Morning and Evening Canticles, Vol. 1
PERFORMER: Collegiate Singers/Andrew Millinger; Richard Moorhouse (organ)
CATALOGUE NO: PRCD 745
At first sight, the Collegiate Singers, a mixed amateur choir associated with Westminster Abbey, seems a surprising choice on the part of Priory for a repertoire written mostly for men’s and boys’ choirs. Listening to the disc should dispel any doubts, but the choir also has the advantage of a long association with Howells, having premiered two of his works.

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The Singers produce a sound almost indistinguishable from a typical cathedral choir, the women’s voices pure and bright. They negotiate the unexpected twists and turns of Howells’s melodies with grace, and can sing with impressive force and volume where necessary.

Although Howells wrote a smattering of canticles before 1945, it was not until that date that he launched himself on the series of Evening Services, each named after the cathedral, college chapel or church for which it was intended.

Priory has obviously ruled out recording each service in its eponymous building, and has settled on Marlborough College Chapel, which has no claim at all apart from its excellent, clear acoustics.

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Few of Howells’s canticles, apart from the St Paul’s, Gloucester and Collegium Regale services, could be called core repertoire, so Priory’s decision to release all 20 Magnificat and Nunc dimittis settings is an enlightened one. This CD bodes well for the remaining four discs of the set. Janet Banks