Eternal Light – A Requiem

EMI Classics is proud to release Eternal Light: A Requiem, a new work by the award-winning British composer and internationally acclaimed broadcaster, Howard Goodall.

Goodall’s fresh and unorthodox interpretation of the Requiem Mass is performed by Christ Church Cathedral Choir, Oxford and London Musici conducted by Stephen Darlington with soloists Natasha Marsh, Alfie Boe and Christopher Maltman.

Howard Goodall was voted Composer of the Year at 2009 Classical Brit Awards, having been nominated for Eternal Light – A Requiem which features the Choir.

Missa Gloria Tibi Trinitas

Sanctus Agnus DeiJohn Taverner’s Mass is generally regarded as his finest work which shows complete mastery of structure and polyphony in six parts. It is the first of the eleven mass settings in the Forrest-Heyther part-books, almost certainly collected together for use in Wolsey’s chapel. The recording is the first to use the original forces of men and boys as envisaged by the composer and is on the top record label Avie Records. It has been sponsored by the Friends of the Cathedral and is available from Christ Church Cathedral Shop (01865 201971) and all good record shops.

John Taverner, the most outstanding English composer of his time, was appointed Informator Choristarum of Cardinal College, Oxford in 1526, with the charge of establishing the foremost choral institution in the land. He succeeded magnificently and the tradition continues to this day at what is now known as Christ Church, Oxford, with acclaimed director Stephen Darlington, renowned for his strength in 16th century choral music, at the helm. Darlington and his forces – 16 boys and 12 men, unchanged since the 1520s – pay homage to their predecessor with a programme of his liturgical music written at Oxford. While there, Taverner had to write music to be performed virtually round the clock and he rose to the challenge using great imagination. He wrote innumerable memorable melodies, with an unprecedented emotional range and a sophisticated sense of drama. His music was astonishingly modern for its time, and in its richness remains much so today.

The Choir of Christ Church Oxford has a special and distinctive place within the great English choral tradition as it uniquely serves both an Oxford college and a diocese. With an unbroken, continuous tradition of glorious music-making for nearly five hundred years, today the choir is renowned for its vibrant sound and artistic versatility, qualities that have been praised throughout the world from Sydney to Rio de Janiero, Tokyo to New York, Helsinki to Paris. Apart from their Oxford duties and international tours, the Choir has been heard by millions on the Mr. Bean soundtracks and Vicar of Dibley TV theme tune!

Winter Lullabies

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Almost everyone knows at least one of Howard Goodall’s many TV themes, from The Vicar of Dibley and Blackadder to Q.I. and Mr Bean, and his BAFTA-winning Channel 4 documentaries on music have been acclaimed throughout the English-speaking world. His stage musicals have also won him awards on both sides of the Atlantic and a week has not passed in 5 years without one of them being in production somewhere; between late 2006 and early 2008 he will premiere no less than 4 major newly-commissioned musicals. Musical training began at choir school in Oxford and he has maintained strong links with choral music, and particularly with Christ Church Oxford, of which he is himself a graduate, throughout his career. His In Memoriam Anne Frank was the musical centrepiece of the inaugural National Holocaust Memorial commemorative concert, O Lord God of Time and Eternity was commissioned for the national service of remembrance following the Iraq war at St Paul’s Cathedral, his Psalm 23 has been at or near the top of the best-selling choral sheet music in the UK for 10 years, and Refuge, for the Youth Music Singbook, has been performed in its first year of publication by over 40,000 young singers. He chairs the National Vocal Strategy on behalf of Youth Music and the Music Manifesto.

Winter Lullabies, for solo harp and boys’ voices, comprises six loosely-interwoven movements, and despite Thomas Campion’s jovial toast to the delights of winter with which it begins, the texts mainly centre on the hardship and the challenges of winter, particularly for mothers and their infants. The core of the work is a specially-written text in English and Gaelic, Crossing the border, by Irish poet Theo Dorgan. Whilst the central theme of the cycle associates secular issues of homelessness, displacement and flight with the Christian nativity story, there is also a general celebration of motherhood and the different moods that might be embraced by a lullaby. With this in mind, the composer has even revisited Josef Mohr’s familiar text Stille Nacht, attaching to it a more dance-like musical texture than the well-worn Franz Gruber original. Two anonymous lullabies, one joyful the other sorrowful, from very different continents and centuries, are juxtaposed in the second half of the cycle, and the whole piece concludes with Lullaby of Winter, to Goodall’s own text, knitting together lyrical and musical ideas from the previous songs. Winter Lullabies was commissioned by Christ Church Cathedral Choir, receives its world premiere with Catrin Finch on this CD, and it was conceived with the richly robust, rhythmically energetic voices of Stephen Darlington’s boy choristers very much in mind.

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  • Panis angelicus César Franck (1822-1890)
  • La salutation angelique – Ave Maria Charles Gounod (1818-1893)
  • The Lord is my shepherd Franz Schubert (1797-1828)
  • Ave Maria Op52 No6 Franz Schubert
  • En prière Gabriel Fauré (1845-1924)
  • Cantique de Jean Racine Gabriel Fauré
  • Winter Lullabies Howard Goodall
  • – Now when winter nights enlarge
  • – Stille Nacht
  • – Crossing the border
  • – Duérmete mi niño
  • – Sorrowful lullaby
  • – Lullaby of winter
  • The harp resounds with wild refrain Johannes Brahms (1833-1897) from Four Songs Op17 No1
  • Ombrai Mai Fu (‘Handel’s Largo’) George Frideric Handel (1685-1759)
  • Ave verum Gabriel Fauré
  • Cantique de Noël Adolphe Adam (1803-1856)

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Favourite Hymns from Oxford

Morning has Broken Nearer my God to theeThe Christ Church quadrangle fountain shimmering in sunlight attractively adorns the cover of this collection of some of the greatest of all hymns. As Stephen Darlington says “hymns deal with weighty topics” and new arrangements (inc. also by Howard Goodall feature amongst these most spirited performances). Recorded Christ Church Chapel July 2004 in DDD sound.

A Tudor Christmas

Coventry Carol Remember O Thou ManImagine yourself in the fine surroundings of the Great Hall of Christ Church, Oxford, with a programme of Tudor sacred and secular music including music by Henry VIII, one of Christ Church’s founders, and choral works associated with Christ Church during its first century.

1. Pastime with good company Henry VIII (1491-1547)
2. Coventry carol 16th century
Soloists: Tom King, Brian Chapman, William Gaunt
3. Rorate coeli William Byrd (c.1540-1623)
Soloists: Nicholas Haigh, John Cotton, Adrian Lowe
4. Consort Henry VIII
5. Christe Jesu, pastor bone John Taverner (c.1490-1545)
6. Consort Henry VIII
7. This is the record of John Orlando Gibbons (1583-1625)
Soloist: Tom King
8. Ave Maria Robert Parsons (c.1530-1570)
9. Remember O thou man Thomas Ravenscroft (c.1590-c.1633)
Soloists: Nicolas Haigh, Alexander Thompson, William Gaunt
10. Consort Henry VIII
11. While shepherds watched Christopher Tye (c.1505-1573)
12. From virgin’s womb William Byrd
Soloists: John Cotton
13. Consort Henry VIII
14. Laudate nomen Christopher Tye
15. O nata lux Thomas Tallis (c.1505-1585)
16. Magnificat from 1st Service John Sheppard (c.1520-c.1560)
17. Sweet was the song 16th century
Soloist: Alexander Thompson
18. Quid petis, o fili Richard Pygott (c.1485-1552)
Soloists: John Cotton, Tim Dallosso, Tom King, Brian Chapman,
Gabriel Vick, William Gaunt, Timothy Whiteley, Angus Wilson
19. Consort Henry VIII
20. Hosanna to the Son of David Thomas Weelkes (1575-1623)

Janácek: The Lord’s Prayer, Choral and Organ Music

A stunning recording of Janacek’s beautiful shorter Church works. When broadcast live on Radio 3 the reaction to “The Lord’s Prayer” (Otcenas) was astounding. The booklet includes an essay by leading critic / Slavonic specialist Ivan Moody.

The Golden Vanity

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Benjamin Britten was renowned throughout his life as a prolific composer of children’s music, and his affection for young people and interest in their world was a defining characteristic of his personality as an artist. In addition to this he showed an enduring affinity for choral writing, and – combining these two interests – the pieces on this disc represent some of the best examples of his music for young voices. Britten began writing for choirs whilst still at school, including in his early output such works as the Hymn to the Virgin and A Boy was Born. He never compromised his often highly modernistic style when writing for young performers, and always managed to challenge his singers’ technical abilities as well as cover a broad spectrum of emotions in his works for children.

The Golden Vanity was composed in 1966 for performance by the world-famous Vienna Boys’ Choir, who commissioned it from Britten and went on to perform it at the Aldeburgh Festival. A vaudeville on the old English ballad of the same name, the work’s double chorus of trebles tells the story of a sea battle with Turkish pirates, the humble cabin-boy who saves the day, and a treacherous sea-captain who refuses to keep the promise of his daughter’s hand in marriage and lets the hero drown. The music is permeated by folk-like shapes that bring to mind traditional English sea-shanties, although an undertone of dissonance and chromaticism reminds us that the story is in fact a dark one of betrayal and death. In his use of folk-song idioms Britten shares an interest with older composers such as Vaughan Williams, but the melodies are treated in a very different manner from the style of his predecessors. The work’s pungent harmonies (including abundant semitonal clashes in the piano part) help to create an uncomfortable and at times even raucous effect. Although The Golden Vanity initially appears to be a more lighthearted work than the Children’s Crusade, we are nonetheless presented with a tragic, typically Britten-esque hero; the lonely, suffering boy, abandoned by all those around him. It is worth noting that Britten’s own schooldays were deeply unhappy, and it is probable that feelings about his own lonely youth are reflected in music such as this.

A Ceremony of Carols is written in a very different vein from the Children’s Crusade and The Golden Vanity, possessing as it does rather more of a sense of innocence and bright exuberance. The dissonance level is much lower in this earlier work, but although imbued with energy and brim-full with singable melodies there are also numerous effective passages of a more reflective nature. Written in the depths of wartime, this is undoubtedly Britten’s most famous work for boys’ voices. Nonetheless, although the piece is scored for a three-part choir of trebles with harp accompaniment, its first performance – in Norwich Castle in December 1942 – was given by the women of London’s Fleet Street Choir. Britten composed much of A Ceremony of Carols whilst travelling back from America to England by ship, and his choice to write what has come to be seen as such a self-evidently ‘English’ work can be interpreted as an expression of his feelings on returning home after his exile. Setting early carol texts, Britten creates a wide range of effects from his little group – different movements feature soloists (including the particularly haunting This Yongë Childe), playful rhythmic writing (Adam lay i-bounden) and the use of canon (in the bravura choral showpiece, This little Babe). Unifying the whole cycle is the plainsong antiphon, Hodie Christus Natus Est, an ancient chant from the Christmas liturgy. The antiphon can be heard here in the Procession and Recession, and is also subtly featured in the improvisatory harp Interlude at the heart of the work….

Sophie Biddell
Oxford 2003

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Britten’s Vaudeville, composed for the Vienna Boys’ Choir, is presented here with A Ceremony of Carols, the Missa brevis in D and the Children’s Crusade. The performances are polished and the boys’ voices very refined – so much so that, in The Golden Vanity, the boys sound rather too polite to be convincing English sailors, let alone bloodthirsty Turkish pirates!

Christopher Maxim –Church Music Quarterly – December 2004

‘Music for Boys’ Voices’, as this pleasing CD is subtitled, presents four works dating from between 1942 (A Ceremony of Carols) and 1968 (Children’s Crusade). They were written for a variety of purposes -A Ceremony of Carols for the Fleet Street Choir, the Missa brevis (1959) for the retirement of George Malcolm as director of music at Westminster Cathedral, The Golden Vanity (1966) for the Vienna Boys’ Choir. Children’s Crusade, written for Wandsworth School Choir and Orchestra, was first performed in St Paul’s Cathedral in 1969 on the fiftieth anniversary of the Save the Children fund. The accompaniments range between telling use of a harp in the Ceremony, organ in the Missa, and piano and percussion in Vanity, to the startling and original scoring for two pianos, organ and a battery of percussion in the Crusade. This last work is the least often recorded and for me the most interesting. It is a setting of Hans Keller’s translation of Brecht’s Kinderkreuzzug and tells starkly of the appalling fate of a group of children wandering through wartime Poland in winter, eventually dying of cold and starvation. In 1970 Britten himself was involved in the historic recording made by Russell Burgess and his Wandsworth School forces.
The Missa brevis is available in several recordings by college and cathedral choirs, among them a version by the 1986 successors to the original Westminster Cathedral performers, directed by David Hill. The ever-popular Ceremony of Carols is listed in more than 20 versions, including ones coupled with the Missa (for example, King’s College Choir under David Willcocks).

The performances on the new Lammas CD are spirited, full of enthusiasm and, even in the bleakest music, evident enjoyment. Diction is less than ideally clear, but the texts (apart from that of the Mass) are printed in the booklet. The recording requires a higher-than-usual volume setting, but balance and the atmosphere of the cathedral are alike impressive. Instrumental contributions are unfailingly musical and highly effective. Stephen Darlington and all his singers and players deserve high praise and warm gratitude.

Peter Branscombe –Internationial Record Review – February 2004

This collection gives us four challenging pieces. The title track was composed in 1966 for the Vienna Boys’ Choir and tells an exciting tale of a sea battle with Turkish pirates in which the young hero drowns. The choristers of Christ Church Cathedral are joined by those from Worcester College Chapel but still do not pack enough punch for this reviewer Credit to Clive Driscoll-Smith on piano for keeping things moving. ‘The Ceremony Of Carols’ from 1942 works much better. This is a collection of a dozen short pieces that are strung together like pearls in a necklace Victoria Davies adds some lovely touches on the harp. Next we have ‘Missa Brevis In D’ from 1959. It is brief but also remarkably powerful, foreshadowing the ‘War Requiem’. We conclude with the ‘Children’s Crusade’, written in 1968 for the Save The Children fund. It tells the grim story of a group of young Poles who starved to death in 1939. It is not an easy piece to listen to but still needs to be heard. The juxtaposition of this with the Christmas make us think.

Steven Whitehead –Cross Rhythms

All in all this is an outstanding release that deserves that warmest recommendation.

Hubert Culot – MusicWeb International

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Pantcheff – Choral and Organ Music

Richard Pantcheff is a local composer with strong Christ Church connections. The choir’s new CD (QUIL 405) offers several of his choral and organ works, including two specially written for Christ Church, the Te Deum, and King Henry VIII’s Apologia.

Richard Pantcheff has established himself as one of the UK’s leading composers of Choral and Organ music, with a succession of commissions and performances of his work in major English and Scottish cathedrals, colleges, and schools, as well as in many churches in Germany and the USA. A substantial proportion of his output is published, distributed, and performed around the world.

The works featured on this CD were written in three places which have proved to be particularly conducive to musical composition: Whitchurch, Hampshire (where the composer was Director of Music at All Hallows’ Church from 1989-1993); Frankfurt am Main, Germany (where he was Assistant Organist at the Episcopal Church, from 1993-5); and Oxford, where he now devotes his time to freelance composition.

An Oxford Evensong

– An Oxford Evensong (Griffin GCCD) contains a selection of music by composers connected with Oxford, including Parry, Harris, Harwood, Walton, Rose, Leighton, Armstrong and the first recording of a beautiful anthem by Sydney Watson.Coronation Te Deum

Missa Aspice Domine and Motets

  • Missa Aspice Domine
  • Aspice Domine by Jachet of Mantua
  • O suavitas et dulcedo
  • Miserere mei Domine
  • Pie Jesu
  • Virtus mea
  • O clementissime Domina Jesu
  • Clamavi de tribulatione mea
  • Factum est silentium.