COMPOSERS: Byrd,Handel,Haydn,Howells,Purcell,Tallis,Taverner etc
WORKS: Byrd, Handel, Haydn, Howells, Purcell, Tallis, Taverner etc
PERFORMER: Choir of Christ Church Cathedral, Oxford/Stephen Darlington
CATALOGUE NO: AV 2215
This looks like a highlights disc, but isn’t: the recordings are new, and celebrate over 500 years of choral singing at Christ Church, Oxford. All the pieces featured have some connection with its cathedral, college or its precious manuscript collection. The real backstory here, though, is the quality of the singing, which has developed during the 26-year tenure of the choir’s director of music, Stephen Darlington.
It shows in many ways: the practised ease with which individuals take solo roles in Purcell’s O God, thou art my God, balancing ideally against the body choral; in the maintenance of steady, supported tone in the quiet, slow sections of Walton’s Set me as a seal, and in the supple, extended lines of Howells’s Like as the hart. The unison singing of the exposed sections in the Howells is particularly notable, impressively unanimous in its nuanced expressivity.
There are more excellent solo contributions in Gibbons’s verse anthem Great Lord of Lords, and while there’s occasionally a suspicion that the robustly healthy men’s voices are slightly overwhelming the boys, that’s a minor observation. Overall, this is a splendidly recorded and packaged snapshot of a great choral institution, still going as strongly as ever. Terry Blain