Don’t you love it when you hear a song that somehow moves you and you look to see who the artist is and that leads you to a great CD?
I heard one called, appropriately enough, A New Song, and I liked it so much I had to hear it more so I tracked it down (it wasn’t hard to do) and found out that it’s on the 2008 CD My Beloved Spake by the Winchester College Chapel Choir, or Winchester College Quiristers.
Selection number 8, A New Song, was composed by James MacMillan in 1997 and it’s a unique piece with these wonderful vocal flourishes that I won‘t even try to describe. It starts with the trebles and builds in intensity until it ends with a powerful bit of organ work.
Other pieces (I’m not supposed to call them songs) that I recognize and like are A Grateful Heart by Mary Plumstead, the German version of Brahms’ How Lovely Are Thy Dwellings, William Byrd’s Ave Verum Corpus and They That Go Down to the Sea in Ships by Herbert Sumsion (…and stagger like a drunken, stagger like a drunken, stagger like a drunken man...).
The title piece, My Beloved Spake, by Hadley takes its verses from The Song of Solomon and it’s very pretty.
There are 15 cuts on this CD and they are kind enough to give us the lyrics and a short paragraph about each piece.
One thing I really like about this album is that, unlike too many other choral CD’s such as the ones from Downside Abby, the trebles are given the spotlight with the other voices playing a supporting role.
Just like the violins are the heart of the orchestra, so I believe that the treble voices are the heart of the choir. The altos and basses are there to bring fullness and drama to the overall sound but it’s the trebles that give us goose bumps.
There is a fun video on their web site that features the choristers going about their daily prep school lives and practicing their singing.
Here’s a link:
Also, I lifted this from BCSD:
“Founded in 1382 by William of Wykeham, Bishop of Winchester and twice Chancellor of England, Winchester College is one of the oldest and best-known schools in Great Britain. Wykeham's original foundation included 70 scholars, and although the school has now grown tenfold in size, the same number of scholars continues to live in medieval chambers next to the College Hall and Chapel. Wykeham also made provision for 16 singing-boys called Quiristers, whose duty was to sing at Chapel services.”