Unostentatious Magnificence!

You could say we have a mini-invasion of College Chapel Choirs from Cambridge on the horizon!

The Choir of King’s College, no less, is at St Marie’s Cathedral on the 27th of June and, just over a week earlier, the Chapel Choir of Selwyn College has a three-day mini-tour in the area.

It might not have the household name the former has, but its worldwide reputation cannot be denied as one of finest mixed choirs among the many top-notch Cambridge choirs – how about “a sound of unostentatious magnificence” for one ringing endorsement!

It is perhaps not without significance that numerous other similar instances of approval have come since Canadian Sarah MacDonald became the first professional director of the choir (mixed since 1976) in 1999; also the first woman to hold such a post at an Oxbridge chapel.

Although the Selwyn choir has a repertoire ranging from the 10th to the 21st century, it has a unique niche of its own (at present anyway), that of recording single-living composer discs (quite a number), indeed perform a considerable amount of contemporary choral music.

There is fair sprinkling of it over two concerts from the choir, the first at Worksop College on the 17th of June marking 100 years since the Battle of the Somme, and the second at Wentworth Parish Church the day after: A Celebration of English Choral Music!

The choir is in Sheffield the following day, joining one or more of the St John’s, Ranmoor choirs for Sung Eucharist and, later in the day, the Schola Cantorum at Sheffield Cathedral for Evensong, before giving a ‘short recital’ – how short and featuring what, not known!

The Worksop concert begins with two Psalm settings, William Croft’s O Lord, rebuke me not (Psalm 38); and Britten’s Deus in adjutorium (Psalm 70), written in 1945 and worthy of more outings than it gets. The wonderful, gently mourning Requiem by Howells follows.

After this are two contemporary English Anthems for Remembrance, the first of Alex Patterson’s Two Pieces of Remembrance, Dulce et decorum est, and Mark Blatchly’s For the Fallen – the second of Patterson’s two pieces, but Blatchly’s is arguably the finer setting.

Finally, after Three German Motets for Time of Penitence Op 110 by Brahms, there is John Ireland’s Greater Love Hath No Man and Parry’s I Was Glad.

The Croft and Britten pieces are repeated at Wentworth where proceedings begin with three Easter/ Ascension anthems: Byrd’s Christ Rising Again, Ascendit Deus by his near-forgotten contemporary Peter Philips and a much more recent Alleluia, Christus Resurrexit by Colin Mawby.

Three settings of When David Heard take in a familiar one by Tomkins, less so the one by his contemporary Robert Ramsey and a new one, by Ben Ponniah, premiered by Selwyn in June 2015.

After two contemporary anthems of largely transcendental nature, Jonathan Dove’s Seek Him and James MacMillan’s A New Song; Finzi’s My Spirit Sang All Day, Vaughan Williams’s The Turtle Dove, Stanford’s The Bluebird and Pearsall’s Lay a Garland are heard to send everyone home happy.


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