Dancing Day: Music for Christmas
The Cambridge choral tradition has continued in the US, thanks to the advocacy of John Scott, organ scholar at St John’s, then organist at St Paul’s Cathedral and latterly Director of Music at Saint Thomas, Fifth Avenue. His sudden death earlier this year makes Dancing Day perhaps the most poignant of discs and bears testament to his phenomenal musicianship and taste. The choir is absolutely secure from trebles to basses and Saint Thomas’s organ is in fine voice, as demonstrated in the opening Novo profusi gaudio by the Oxford-based composer Matthew Martin. The two major works are Britten’s A Ceremony of Carols and Rutter’s piquant arrangements of traditional tunes, Dancing Day; kudos in both to the boys and to harpist Sara Cutler. (An alternative recording of the Britten is offered by the Mädchenchor Hannover with harpist Birgit Bachhuber and director Gudrun Schröfel – Rondeau Production – but the German girls can’t match the open-throated lustiness of the New York boys.) Nods back towards Cambridge include, again, Ledger’s arrangement of the Sussex Carol and Patrick Hadley’s I sing of a maiden, and it’s good to hear William Mathias’s Wassail Carol, giving a welcome fillip to the reputation of a major composer in danger of slipping from the repertoire (at least outside his native Wales) less than a quarter of a century after his death. This disc has given most consistent pleasure.