ALBUM TITLE: Parry
WORKS: I was glad (arr. G Ives); Blest Pair of Sirens (arr. D Cook); Dear Lord and Father of Mankind (arr. G Ives); Hear my words, ye people (arr. G Ives); Evening Service in D; Fantasia and Fugue in G; Jerusalem (arr. J Wicks); Te Deum (Coronation)
PERFORMER: Jonathan Brown (bass); Choir of Westminster Abbey/James O’Donnell; Onyx Brass; Daniel Cook (organ)
CATALOGUE NO: CDA 68089
James O’Donnell’s performance of I was glad is hugely expansive and majestic, its grandeur of conception enhanced by its use of Grayston Ives’s arrangement which adds brass to the organ. I’m not sure there isn’t an element of overkill in this: the trumpets, horns, trombones and tuba resonate so resplendently in Westminster Abbey’s acoustic that the choir can seem unduly miniaturised in comparison. Still, it’s difficult to resist the spine-tingling monumentalism of the performance, especially in its high-resolution download format.
The singers are more closely focused in Blest Pair of Sirens, making it easier to savour the fresh purity of the trebles at ‘O may we soon again renew that song’. It’s the tenors’ turn to impress in verse two of the Chambers arrangement of ‘Dear Lord and Father of mankind’, where more of the famous tune’s source material in Parry’s oratorio Judith is incorporated than in the standard hymn setting.
The muscular Christianity of Hear my words, ye people is fulsomely projected, O’Donnell knitting the different episodes together with convincing cogency. Bass Jonathan Brown contributes a handsome solo, proud and dignified without bluster. In a recital packed with burgeoning Victorian self-confidence, the refuge provided by the Nunc dimittis of the 1881 Evening Service is welcome. Here the imitative writing, led by soaring trebles, is unravelled with typical skill and sensitivity by O’Donnell.
Jerusalem thrills without bombast, while a no-holds-barred Coronation Te Deum brings this virtually ideal introduction to Parry’s choral output to a scorching conclusion. Terry Blain