Most often, as reviewers we are asked to review discs and recordings that are brand new, but sometimes we are presented with gems such as this. This is a re-mastered issue of the contents of an LP originally released in 1962. Stanley Vann, the conductor here, was one of the greats of 20th century church music in England. During his tenure at Peterborough Cathedral the choir was considered by many to be the finest cathedral choir in the land.
As someone who has been lucky enough to have sung in various cathedral choirs - as well as currently being in one of the country's finest cathedral choirs - and all around the Oxford chapel system, this is just my kind of music. Having the opportunity to hear Peterborough's choir under Dr Vann was a real treat, and a chance to look into part of the traditions I have as a choral and cathedral singer.
This all-male cathedral choir is made up of twenty-four singers - fourteen boy trebles, three altos, four tenors and three basses. It takes its place in a nine century-long practice of singing daily Christian services, a tradition that continues to this day. Today’s choir boasts twenty-four boys and twenty-three girls. The two groups share cathedral duties equally, and the cathedral has had girls since 1997. There are two altos, two tenors and two basses during the week, augmented by six supernumerary adult singers at weekends and for special occasions and concerts.
On this disc the choir presents works from two Tudor composers, Adrian Batten and Richard Dering, who have remarkably different styles. Batten belongs to the mainstream of church music at the time having been a chorister at Westminster Cathedral, and a Vicar-Choral at Westminster Abbey and later St. Paul's. By contrast, Dering has a style more influenced by continental Europe, having studied in Italy and served as an organist in Brussels. The differences are clear but the choir deals with all of the music exceedingly well, and every member contributes musically to a performance that is truly convincing and immensely enjoyable. I found the trebles to be particularly remarkable - there is a lot of fine singing, and those with solos are strong. The organ playing was also very fine, and complemented the singing beautifully.
This disc is admirable testimony to the long tradition of high quality singing that has taken place at Peterborough Cathedral. An absolute treat as a listening experience.