Great Cathedral Anthems, Volume 11

A celebration of a great British choral director and a disc of American [anthem] anthems performed with considerable distinction provide a very fitting end to this series

Author: 
Marc Rochester

Great Cathedral Anthems, Volume 11

  • (The) Lord is King
  • I was glad
  • Exaltabo te, Domine
  • Happy are they that fear the Lord
  • Jam sol recedit igneus (Now sinks the sun)
  • Earthquake, Wind and Fire
  • Let this mind be in you
  • Open our eyes
  • Draw us in the Spirit's tether
  • (3) Songs of Isaiah, Arise, shine
  • Abide with me
  • If ye then be risen with Christ
  • There is none that can resist thy voice
  • When I survey the wondrous cross
  • (The) Light of Life, 'Lux Christi', Light out of darkness
  • O hearken thou
  • For the Fallen
  • Sacerdotes Domini
  • Turn back O Man
  • Great is the Lord
  • O sing unto the Lord a new song
  • When David heard
  • My heart is fixed, O God

To conclude its series of Great Cathedral Anthems – a series which, at just 12 discs, merely scratches the surface of the available repertoire – Priory celebrates the work, not of a major church music composer, but of one of the best-known and most highly respected choral directors of our time. And, in taking Sir David Willcocks back to Worcester, where from 1950 to 1957 he was Master of the Choristers, we are also given an opportunity to celebrate the music of one of Britain’s most musically influential cathedrals. Of course the Worcester choir under Willcocks in the 1950s would have been a very different-sounding body from their 21st-century successor, here singing (presumably after only a handful of rehearsals) under an awe-inspiring ‘legend’, and perhaps it is unfair to criticise the occasional raggedness of blend and ensemble while the over-bright boys’ tone seems a world apart from the smooth ‘coo’ which became Willcocks’ hallmark at King’s College, Cambridge. But Willcocks never made recordings with his Worcester Choir and, given the chance to hear such Worcester gems as When I survey by Edgar Day, assistant under Willcocks, and If ye then be risen by Willcocks’ predecessor at Worcester, not to mention rarely heard anthems by the greatest Worcesterian of them all, Elgar, the combination of a legendary choral director, a keen and enthusiastic choir and Adrian Lucas’s resourceful and vivid organ accompaniments, makes this a fitting conclusion to an eminently rewarding series.
The penultimate disc in the series gives British church music aficionados a rare chance to sample American anthems. Few of those included here will be familiar to English ears and only Harold Friedell’s charming Draw us in the Spirit’s tether could be mistaken for the genuine English product. But the unfettered drama, vivid musical imagery and sheer Technicolor opulence of these anthems make a refreshing change from the restrained emotions and tight-lipped charm of their English counterparts. Under Gerre Hancock, himself something of a legend in church music circles, the choir of St Thomas’s New York prove themselves to be one of the best cathedral choirs on either side of the Atlantic and Judith Hancock’s polished and imaginative organ accompaniments add a fine touch of distinction. Priory’s recording achieves the perfect balance between atmosphere (which in this location is most generous) and clarity.'

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