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Choir of Clare College, Cambridge and Graham Ross – Britten – A Ceremony of Carols (2020) [Official Digital Download 24bit/96kHz]

Choir of Clare College, Cambridge and Graham Ross – Britten – A Ceremony of Carols (2020)
FLAC (tracks) 24 bit/96 kHz | Time – 01:14:44 minutes | 1,19 GB | Genre: Classical
Studio Masters, Official Digital Download | Digital Booklet, Front Cover | © harmonia mundi

It may seem a little perverse to open this review by bypassing the headline event (Britten’s A Ceremony of Carols) in favour of its surrounding programme of early twentieth century carols and short choral works, but the latter are so very enjoyable that I’m almost of the opinion that they’re where this programme’s true gold lies. Not least because not all of it is much recorded.

Take Gustav Holst’s lilting, unaccompanied This have I done for my true love of 1916, drawing on the English folk tradition in its modal harmonies and melodic simplicity. A tradition you hear equally strongly in John Ireland’s wistful lullaby, The Holy Boy, initially published in 1913 as a piano prelude, which balances a simple melody with various gently nuanced harmonic surprises. Or Frank Bridge’s serene Music, when Soft Voices Die, which – as with organ-accompanied works of Britten’s on the programme such as the album-opening Venite Exultemus Domino and the Hymn to St. Peter – isn’t technically a Christmas work at all, yet sits perfectly within the whole. Then the icing on the cake is the mixed-voice choral singing itself: the clean-toned freshness of the female sopranos, balancing against the warmth and depth of the overall sound; articulation crisp and warm in equal measure, and always with a beautiful feel for the texts themselves.

On to A Ceremony of Carols, and it’s here that opinions are more likely to sharply divide, because it appears not in its original treble-voice form, but instead in arrangement for mixed choir. Just the Procession and Recession are preserved in their original form. Some listeners may appreciate the added oomph the men bring to carols such as Deo gracias. Some may feel that the gossamer charm of Bululalow is gone; also the fragile intimacy of That yongë child, which remains treble voice but is no longer a solo. Harpist Tanya Houghton though is an indisputable joy from start to finish – listen in particular to the beautiful shaping she brings to There is no rose, a true conversation between her and the singers thrown into even sharper relief by the attention the engineering has lavished upon her.

Whether A Ceremony of Carols ultimately floats your boat or not, the programme as a whole is refreshingly non-standard, and all presented via choral singing at its finest.

Tracklist

1. Choir of Clare College, Cambridge – Venite exultemus Domino
2. Choir of Clare College, Cambridge – Te Deum in C
3. Choir of Clare College, Cambridge – Jubilate Deo in C
4. Choir of Clare College, Cambridge – Deus in adjutorium meum intende
5. Choir of Clare College, Cambridge – A Hymn to the Virgin
6. Choir of Clare College, Cambridge – A Hymn of St Columba
7. Choir of Clare College, Cambridge – Hymn to St Peter, Op. 56a
8. Choir of Clare College, Cambridge – The Holy Boy
9. Choir of Clare College, Cambridge – Music, when soft voices die, H. 37
10. Choir of Clare College, Cambridge – This have I done for my true love, Op. 34 No. 1, H. 128
11. Choir of Clare College, Cambridge – The Sycamore Tree
12. Choir of Clare College, Cambridge – The Holly and the Ivy
13. Choir of Clare College, Cambridge – Christ’s Nativity: 2. Sweet was the song
14. Choir of Clare College, Cambridge – A Ceremony of Carols, Op. 28: 1. Procession
15. Choir of Clare College, Cambridge – A Ceremony of Carols, Op. 28: 2. Wolcum Yole!
16. Choir of Clare College, Cambridge – A Ceremony of Carols, Op. 28: 3. There is no rose
17. Choir of Clare College, Cambridge – A Ceremony of Carols, Op. 28: 4a. That yongë child
18. Choir of Clare College, Cambridge – A Ceremony of Carols, Op. 28: 4b. Balulalow
19. Choir of Clare College, Cambridge – A Ceremony of Carols, Op. 28: 5. As dew in Aprille
20. Choir of Clare College, Cambridge – A Ceremony of Carols, Op. 28: 6. This little babe
21. Choir of Clare College, Cambridge – A Ceremony of Carols, Op. 28: 7. Interlude
22. Choir of Clare College, Cambridge – A Ceremony of Carols, Op. 28: 8. In freezing winter night
23. Choir of Clare College, Cambridge – A Ceremony of Carols, Op. 28: 9. Spring Carol
24. Choir of Clare College, Cambridge – A Ceremony of Carols, Op. 28: 10. Deo gracias
25. Choir of Clare College, Cambridge – A Ceremony of Carols, Op. 28: 11. Recession
26. Choir of Clare College, Cambridge – Friday Afternoons, Op. 7: 5. A New Year Carol

Download:

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