Mary and Elizabeth at Westminster Abbey
Following the success in the Gramophone Awards of the Choir of New College, Oxford, this first-rate survey of old favourites suggests that collegiate institutions such as these continue to enjoy rude health, fears to the contrary notwithstanding. Conceived as a memorial to two royal sisters buried in the Abbey, it includes some of the strongest singing from boy trebles that I’ve heard recently. As ever, their tone conforms to the “house style”, clearer and brighter than that of Edward Higginbottom’s but with no hint of shrillness.
Undoubtedly the most impressive achievement here is Mundy’s Vox Patris caelestis, which looks a rather unwieldly, sprawling thing on paper (and sounds it in some performances); here it is convincing formally, and the cohesion of the ensemble forces admiration, as indeed does the trebles’ athleticism and stamina. For this alone this disc warrants the strongest recommendation. I’d also single out Nicholas Trapp, the treble solo in Byrd’s Teach me, O Lord, and the choir as a whole in the opening and closing numbers, Tye’s Omnes gentes and White’s Exaudiat te Dominus. The different combinations of solo voices, organ and full choir offer sufficient variety to keep the ear fresh. As a showcase for English choral singing at its most charismatic, this deserves to be widely heard.