Composers: Britten, Bruckner
Performers: The Choir of St John’s College, Cambridge/Andrew Nethsingha
Catalogue Number: Signum SIGCD567
This year marks the 150th anniversary of the consecration of the ‘new’ chapel at St John’s College, Cambridge. Sir George Gilbert Scott’s high Victorian creation replaced the ‘old’ chapel that dated from Tudor times. This celebratory recording is also the choir’s 100th disc, appearing 60 years after George Guest’s ground-breaking album, Hear My Prayer. Guest went on to make a total of 42 discs with the choir on the Argo label, which are now available as a Decca box set.
Current director Andrew Nethsingha, who has led the choir since 2007, has chosen a program of 15 pieces (one for each decade of the chapel’s life) that represent something of the choir’s diverse repertoire. Old favourites such as Harris’ Faire is the heaven, Britten’s Hymn to the Virgin and Jubilate, and Stanford’s Justorum animae rub shoulders with more recent classics like Tavener’s The Lamb and Dove’s Seek him that maketh the seven stars. Bruckner’s Locus iste is an apt title track because it was written in 1869, the year of the chapel’s opening.
Connections with the college are celebrated in works by former choir director, Christopher Robinson and college alumnus, Alex Woolf. Throughout the choir’s fine blend, admirable ensemble and attention to text is always on display, enhanced by the chapel’s celebrated acoustic. A fervent account of Parry’s Blest pair of Sirens brings this very enjoyable and well executed program to a brilliant close. A very fine celebration indeed!