Anybody with deep affection for the more noble anthems of the Anglican tradition will need no excuse to grab a copy of this tasty selection, especially so when it features performances of such tasteful restraint. You only need sample Oliver Browne’s unaffected treble in ‘O for the wings of a dove’ or Xavier Hetherington’s ethereal tenor in the Ave Maria to know that Andrew Nethsingha has musical integrity at the heart of these performances.
The one relatively unconventional work is the title piece by Roxanna Panufnik, a setting of George Herbert’s famous words written for the choir’s 2010 Advent Carol Service. In this performance Alison Martin’s crystalline harp underpins the choir’s atmospheric delivery. In complete contrast, Jonathan Dove’s exuberant Gloria finds organist Edward Picton-Turbervill firing up the singers with some superbly agile playing. He is aided by a recording that sets him at a distance and his relationship with the choir is definitely supportive rather than combative (how refreshing not to have a tuba stop blasting out at the climax of Ireland’s immortal Greater Love: tuba lovers need not fear – you get your fix at the very end of the disc).
There is, nevertheless, pomp and circumstance, albeit of the more restrained variety. I was glad (excluding, thankfully, the coronation shouts) finds the choir in full ceremonial voice, Nethsingha moulding a spine-tingling crescendo around the word ‘glad’, while both Parry’s Jerusalem and Stanford’s Te Deum stir all the necessary patriotic juices without calling for the Union Flags. It is with the more reflective items that the conductor’s undemonstrative approach bears the finest fruit, though, in performances of delicious delicacy and subtlety. The unfolding of Holy is the true light is perhaps the most magical moment on a disc which offers, in truth, 75 minutes of utter aural sublimity.