Sunday, July 25, 2010

England, My England

When I was ordering A Year at King's I noticed another CD from King’s College that I, somehow, didn't own so I sent for it, too. This one is a 2009 release called England, My England and it's a 2 CD set that is sort of like a greatest hits album. It sounds a lot different from the other one. Unlike the a capella singing in A Year at King's most of the pieces here are backed up with some great organ music or by the New Philharmonia Orchestra or by the Band of the Royal Military School of Music, Kneller Hall. Although, there are still some that are voices only.

Each CD has 20 recordings (9 are listed as new) for a total of more than 2 ½ hours of beauty. It starts and ends with coronation music: Zadoc the Priest (Handel) and I Was Glad (Parry). Did you know that those two pieces have been sung at every coronation since their premiers?

This is from the liner notes: “In between are motets ancient and modern - from the miniature If Ye Love Me and the architectural splendour of the 40-part Spem in Alium to William Harris’s dramatic double-choir Spenser setting Faire is the Heaven; well-known psalms sung to Anglican chant; and favourite hymns, notably All People That on Earth Do Dwell, arranged ceremonially for another coronation, that of Elizabeth II.”

There are familiar and popular pieces like Ave Verum Corpus (Byrd), When I Survey the Wondrous Cross (Rutter), Magnificat in G (Stanford) and the Hallelujah Chorus (Handel).

I was particularly taken with Requiem-Requiem Aeternum (Rutter). It’s really a wonderful piece. I think I’ve listened to it over a dozen times.

I often wonder if it's just me or does everyone experience this, where the first version that I hear, and like, of a particular song becomes my favorite, and, no matter how many other versions I hear, that first one will remain my favorite and the one I judge the others by. Abide With Me, I Vow to Thee My Country and Jerusalem are really good on this CD but I think I prefer Libera’s version of them. Of course, I may be a little prejudiced.

Anyway, great CD, great choir. I wish they would come to my neck of the woods. Maybe if I write to Dolly Parton she could invite them to Dollywood. It’s just up the road a piece. Hey, it could happen. I can just imagine Sir David Willcocks enjoying a funnel cake.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

The Choir of King's College

I’m sure that by now everyone knows that Libera is touring again and this time they’re coming to my part of the US. Do I have my ticket? What a silly question.

One morning, a couple of days after the tour schedule was posted, I awoke from a funny dream where I was telling people, “the British are coming, the British are coming…”.

Libera is not the only good news I’ve had lately. Today the postman delivered my new CD from the Choir of King’s College, Cambridge. This is a special CD titled A Year At King’s and it contains 16 choral works that span an entire year in the Church calendar and follow Christ‘s life from Advent to Ascension.

This is also another one of those CD’s that you should listen to with the lights dimmed and all distractions put aside. Kick back in the La-Z-boy recliner with a glass of wine and your headphones so you can really pay attention to the singing. The layering of the voices is complex and rich, and the trebles are especially sweet sounding. Once again the choir is singing without music, but they don‘t need it.

Most of the 16 pieces on this CD are new to me, and that’s usually a good thing. I like new things. Tavener’s version of Away In A Manger is really different from the version I’m used to.
Other unfamiliar works are Eccard’s When To The Temple, Wood’s Tis The Day Of Resurrection, Stanford’s Coelos Ascendit Hodie, and some others. They’re all good.

We all have a lot of versions of Allegri’s Miserere in our collections, but this one is one of the best. I’m always amazed and thrilled at how the boys hold those long, pretty notes for such a long time.

I first noticed the Choir of King’s College when I watched the Merchant-Ivory movie Maurice. There is one particular scene at King’s College that gives us a quick look inside the chapel while the boys are singing Miserere. The scene lasts less than a minute, but I usually rewind and listen to it a few times.

Here they follow up Miserere with Barber’s Agnus Dei, which is a perfect pairing. Both are very haunting, ethereal compositions that are sort of hypnotic and very relaxing.

Anyway, this is a great CD. The only thing I don’t like is that it’s one of those EMI OpenDisc CD’s. Those things annoy me when I want to listen on the computer.

I wish I could get back to a regular posting schedule. I’m trying, only I don’t have a lot of new things to write about right now. Oh, I do have a few CD’s that turned out to be not very exciting, so it’s a little hard to get enthusiastic about them. I do have some on order and I hope they will be more interesting.

When I was looking at A Year At King’s I came across another CD by them that I didn’t have in my collection so I’m writing about it next time.