A Year at Winchester
These are the first two CDs in Regent’s ‘A Year at…’ series. Each disc takes a liturgical and musical journey through the Christian year from Advent to Pentecost, plus festivals and saints’ days. The choice of repertoire is wide-ranging and it’s gratifying to hear several works from the past 25 years. Particularly noteworthy and enjoyable are the works by Andrew Carter, Paul Comeau and Philip Moore from York (receiving their premiere recordings), and Jonathan Dove, Patrick Gowers and John Rutter from Winchester.
Both of the two cathedral choirs include boy and girl choristers and are virtually identical in size and number, with 17-18 boys, 20 girls and 12-14 adults. Also matched is the sound of the boys and girls, so it’s appropriate to regard them as different singers from the same single group of choristers. Meanwhile, the men have a rich tone, almost operatic at times. This can occasionally overshadow York’s choristers, whose sound has an attractive fragility. At Winchester, their strong sustained tone results in a more equal partnership with the lower voices. In terms of balance, blend and ensemble, I feel that Winchester have the edge over York; but both choirs are clearly flourishing under the imaginative direction of Andrew Lumsden and Robert Sharpe.
Excellent support is given by organists Simon Bell and David Pipe, although the latter only contributes to 25 per cent of the CD – a wise decision given the distant sound of the York organ. The Winchester organ is the finer instrument and deserves its higher profile. An auspicious start to what should prove a major collection of choral recordings.