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I’m always amazed at the number of CDs emanating from cathedrals and the programming ingenuity that is shown presenting grassroots repertoire, often with a few twists thrown in. A recording is important to the history of the cathedral, and the advent of girls’ choirs is adding to that history.

Chester performances are proficient, with some fine solo work from within the choir’s ranks. On this CD the choir comes more alive when the men and girls are performing together. The standout tracks for me are a wonderfully dramatic performance of Stanford’s For lo, I raise up and Philip Moore’s All wisdom comes from the Lord – Moore’s writing always seems to bring out some of the best singing from cathedral choirs. Other pieces to savour include a celebratory anthem from Malcolm Boyle and works by Bairstow, Elgar and Howells.

Based on the Evening Services, the Norwich disc focuses on the theme of light. Sacred light has an ethereal quality and the cathedral has more than lively acoustics: with a powerful choir, and an occasional too fast tempo, the beauty within the phrases can be lost in a welter of sound, particularly noticeable in works by Joubert, Tallis, Lauridsen and Brahms. The standout track is the full choir performing Viri Galilaei by Patrick Gowers – beautifully effective writing with a rippling organ duet accompaniment. Also of particular interest is Jonathan Dove’s Vast Ocean of Light: contemplating the cosmos, Dove achieves a sense of timelessness and space in his music.

The richly voiced young choristers of the Choir of the Temple Church are a joy to listen to, their unison singing nothing short of miraculous, and Roger Sayers draws from his singers outstanding phrasing and subtle nuances of tone. This cleverly devised programme is a must for any lover of choral singing: you can dip into Fauré’s Messe basse, Patrick Hadley’s uncluttered I sing of a maiden, Bach’s Four Advent Chorales from the Orgelbüchlein, and works by Reger, Britten, Ireland, Ridout and Purcell. In a programme of fine writing, Kenneth Leighton’s two-part Easter Sequence for organ and trumpet is a lesson in originality. Greg Morris is a master of the beautiful Harrison & Harrison organ and his playing is a joy to hear.

Regent continues its ‘A year at…’ series around British cathedrals with Lincoln. Starting in Advent, we are taken through the church’s liturgical year in repertoire that has links with the cathedral. The choir’s strength is its beautiful singing of polyphony, in works by Byrd, Parsons, Tallis and Taverner. It is clear that both boy and girl choristers are receiving excellent training, and Aric Prentice steers his choir through some lovely performances. Newer works by Bob Chilcott and Judith Bingham stand out, while Patrick Hawes’s commissioned piece, My dearest wish, signals its intent. Old favourites from S.S. Wesley, Mendelssohn and Brahms add variety. The CD ends with a rousing performance of Vaughan Williams’s ‘Let all the world’from the Five Mystical Songs.

SHIRLEY RATCLIFFE Read the full review on Agora Classica


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