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A Year in Exeter Cathedral
Track listing below review
The Girls and Men of Exeter Cathedral Choir/Stephen Tanner
David Davies (organ)
rec. 27-29 May 2011, Exeter Cathedral. DDD
Texts and English translations included
PRIORY PRCD 1066 [71:08]

In 2012 I welcomed the first disc in Priory’s new survey of the Psalms of David, a recording made by the choir of Exeter Cathedral (review). That disc featured the trebles and adult male voices of the choir. However, since 1994 the cathedral has also had a team of girl choristers. Ever since that section of the choir was founded it has been directed by Stephen Tanner, the Assistant Organist at the Cathedral. Here, the girls sing with the Lay Vicars of the cathedral choir - and they do so to excellent effect.
 
The chosen programme is a sequence of music that, in essence, takes us through the liturgical year, starting in Advent and going through to the Feast of All Saints (November 1). It’s in the figurative darkness tinged with promise of Advent that we start with an arresting, declamatory anthem by Gabriel Jackson, which is a setting of the antiphon sung or said at the office of Prime on Christmas Eve. Jackson’s choral music is invariably worth hearing and this piece, which was new to me, is no exception. Also new to me was the setting by Colin Mawby of Jesus Christ the apple tree. Unusually, he uses a plainchant melody, Vexilla regis, as the basis for this Christmas piece and it works very well.
 
I’ve heard David Bednall’s Salvator Mundi before on a disc devoted to his music (review). It’s a lovely little piece for trebles and organ and the Exeter girls do it very well indeed. Also for trebles and organ is Come Holy Ghost, one of three pieces in the programme by Stephen Tanner. This 2006 piece was written for school choirs and it’s attractive. More interesting, however, is his arrangement of Deep River. This was made in 2006 for the Exeter Cathedral choir to sing on a tour to the USA. It’s a good arrangement which skilfully interweaves another spiritual, Swing low, sweet chariot.
 
I liked Jonathan Lee’s Meditation for Holy Week, a fine, eloquent anthem which I hadn’t heard before. Holy Week gives way to the joy of Easter and Richard Shephard’s The strife is o’er is a delightful, celebratory Easter piece. The music is exuberant, except for a slower, reflective central section, and the Exeter singers make a thoroughly good job of it. I was a little less convinced by their account of Palestrina’s Ascendit Deus: the singing is good but ideally needs to be a bit more robust, I think. On the other hand, the choir definitely does give a robust performance of RVW’s extrovert Let all the world, which ends the programme in fine style.
 
This programme shows the Exeter Cathedral Choir in fine shape, The 19 girl choristers make a very pleasing sound and they combine with the gentlemen of the choir to very good effect. In fact, these young singers are an excellent advertisement for the role of girls in cathedral choirs. The recorded sound is very good and David Davies, the cathedral’s Assistant Director of Music not only contributes some excellent organ accompaniments but also provides extensive and informative booklet notes.
 
John Quinn
 

Track listing
Gabriel JACKSON (b. 1962)
Tomorrow go ye forth [3:36]
Colin MAWBY (b. 1936)
Jesus Christ the apple tree [4:51]
Michael PRAETORIUS (1571-1621)
In dulci jubilo [3:25]
Peter WARLOCK (1893-1930)
Benedicamus Domino [1:43]
Claudio MERULO (1533-1604)
Tribus miraculis [2:22]
Edward NAYLOR (1867-1934)
Nunc dimittis [2:56]
Henry PURCELL (1659-1695)
Hear my prayer [2:49]
Jonathan BATTISHILL (1738-1801)
O Lord look down from heaven [4:26]
David BEDNALL (b. 1979)
Salvator Mundi [4:12]
Sir Frederick OUSELEY (1825-1889)
O saviour of the world [2:36]
Jonathan LEE (b. 1979)
Meditation for Holy Week [3:13]
Arr. Stephen TANNER (b. 1959)
Deep River [3:42]
Richard SHEPHARD (b, 1949)
The strife is o’er [4:17]
Giovanni Pierluigi da PALESTRINA (1525?-1594)
Ascendit Deus [2:08]
Stephen TANNER
Come Holy Ghost [3:23]
Alexander GRETCHANINOV (1864-1956)
Hymn to the Trinity (The Cherubic Hymn) [4:27]
Stephen TANNER
Ye holy angels bright [3:59]
Herbert SUMSION (1899-1995)
Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace [5:00]
Tomás Luis de VICTORIA (1548-1611)
O quam gloriosum [2:25]
Ralph VAUGHAN WILLIAMS (1872-1958)
Let all the world [3:28]


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