PARRY I was Glad. Hear My Words. Evening Service
This mouth-watering programme of well-known anthems and unfamiliar works has the added attraction of new brass arrangements by Grayston Ives and revised organ arrangements by Daniel Cook and Joseph Wicks. Jeremy Dibble provides a modern edition of the Great Service and the characteristically informative booklet-notes.
The Choir of Westminster Abbey give solid, well-crafted performances and there’s an equitable blend and balance between the boys and the men. Their polished phrasing enhances the clarity of the texts and their excellent conductor James O’Donnell wisely chooses moderate tempi, taking into account the Abbey’s spacious acoustic. Onyx Brass play very well, with a wide range of dynamics, and many listeners may welcome their contribution. Others, however, might have reservations about having a strong 11-piece brass ensemble placed alongside a choir of 43 singers: in some louder passages, the tuttis can become rather overwhelming.
In any case, there is no shortage of resounding brassy sounds on the Abbey’s vintage 105-stop Harrison organ. There is also a plethora of magical orchestral registers, brilliantly exploited by Daniel Cook in his superb, colourful accompaniments. He’s equally fine as a soloist in his well-paced, majestic performance of the virtuoso Fantasia and Fugue in G. It’s a pity that the impact of his playing is perhaps lessened by the recessed recording of the organ, making it a little distant in the overall soundscape.
The choir and brass fare better and the Abbey’s generous resonance is well captured by the microphones. If there’s some loss of detail in the louder sections of the longer works, it’s partly the result of Parry’s intricate scoring for double choir. Certainly, listeners can enjoy the dignity and grandeur of the sounds of choir, organ and brass ringing around the historic spaces of Westminster Abbey.