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William Byrd (1540(?)-1623)

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Byrd: Consort Songs

Byrd: Consort Songs


Rejoice unto the Lord

Ah silly Soul

An aged dame

O dear life, when may it be

Come to me, grief, for ever

Who likes to love

O that most rare breast

All as a sea

Ye sacred muses - an elegy for Thomas Tallis

Constant Penelope

O God that guides the cheerful sun

Lullaby, my sweet little baby

How vain the toils

Robin Blaze (countertenor)


Here is a fine recording to draw the listener into the richly layered world of Queen Elizabeth I. William Byrd’s ‘consort songs’ tell of courtly love; Sir Philip Sidney’s demise in battle becomes an eloquent lament; an old woman tumbling down amid a flurry of human skulls represents contemporary desires for freedom of speech; moral temptations are likened to a storm-tossed ship; and a hymn to the Muses is inspired by the death of Thomas Tallis.

The longest single piece here is Byrd’s famous Lullaby ‘My sweet little baby’, one of the most popular of his works during the composer’s lifetime, and one which has been a deserving favourite ever since. Despite Byrd’s domestic-musician-flattering preface in which he claimed these works were designed to persuade ‘everyone to learn how to sing’, this music makes the highest vocal demands: demands far exceeded in the glorious singing of Robin Blaze.

“Blaze continues to chart new territories of vocal expression. Blending purity with confidence, he draws on his vocal strengths—effortlessly sustained legato, delicate pianissimos, crisp declamation—to starkly varied effect, depending on the context of each song … in this marriage of technical mastery and instinctive understanding, Byrd’s complex psychology stands revealed” BBC Music Magazine

“Exquisite singing from Robin Blaze reveals the sophistication of Byrd’s way with words and music, backed by Concordia’s irresistibly stylish playing” Classic FM Magazine

“Blaze is on superb form in this recording, his clear, unpretentious sound an ideal partner for Concordia … very satisfying it is too. Any chance of mo e of the same, Hyperion?” International Record Review

“The touching lament Ye sacred muses links Byrd and Tallis closely, being written by the former as an elegy on the death of the latter and ending with the thought that 'Tallis is dead, and music dies'. Robin Blaze's effortless countertenor singing is perfectly suited to these works.” David Smith, Presto Classical, October 2014

“Blessed with a most alluring countertenor—creamy in tone, naturally expressive, exquisitely controlled—Blaze is the perfect singer for Byrd’s consort songs … Blaze delivers with a refinement any great lieder singer would be hard pushed to exceed” Sunday Times

“These songs are pure heaven: melancholic and moody, sweet and sad, Blaze—supported by the excellent viol consort Concordia (with Elizabeth Ken providing lute accompaniment)—captures their heart with deceptive ease. A lovely release” The Independent

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Byrd Edition Volume 10 - Laudibus in sanctis

Byrd Edition Volume 10 - Laudibus in sanctis


Quis est homo?

Tribulatio proxima est

Apparebit in finem

Propers for Lady Mass in Eastertide

Regina caeli

Salve regina (Cantiones Sacrae 1591)

Fac cum servo tuo

Ecce quam bonum

In manus tuas, Domine

Unam petii a Domino

Visita, quaesumus Domine

Domine, exaudi orationem meam, inclina

Laudibus in sanctis

This tenth volume in the series is the first to be released on the Hyperion label and the first to feature music from Byrd’s consummate collection of 1591. The first seven motets are featured on this disc including the scintillating setting of Psalm 150 (Laudibus in sanctis) as well as more meditative motets such as Quis est homo and the exquisitely devotional Salve regina.

From the Gradualia are the Propers for Lady Mass in Eastertide and some more general motets – two psalm settings and two motets which take their inspiration from Compline – which create one of the most varied and satisfying discs in the series.

“If, according to Burney, the Mannheim orchestra of 1772 was ‘an army of Generals’, the Cardinall’s Musick of 2006 is surely ‘an exaltation of larks’ … performances of exquisite perfection” International Record Review

“This is the tenth disc in the ensemble’s complete recordings of Byrd, but the first in the series with Hyperion … [the] engineering gains and the artists’ freshness and conviction make this recording a high-water mark in the project. Carwood has captured the passion, delicacy and complexity of England’s greatest Renaissance composer” BBC Music Magazine

“The 12 voices sing out, individuality intact and ideal for airing the awesome polyphony of Byrd’s Latin motets, both fervent and meditative” The Times

GGramophone Awards 2007

Best of Category - Early Music

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Hyperion Cardinall’s Musick Complete Byrd Edition - CDA67568


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Byrd Edition Volume 11 - Hodie Simon Petrus

Byrd Edition Volume 11 - Hodie Simon Petrus


Descendit de caelis

Tu es pastor ovium

Miserere mei

Circumdederunt me

Quodcunque ligaveris

Recordare, Domine

Exsurge, Domine (from Cantiones sacrae 1591)


Nunc scio vere

Constitues eos principes

Tu es Petrus

Levemus corda

Hodie Simon Petrus

Solve iubente Deo

Haec dicit Dominus

This latest release in The Cardinall’s Musick complete Byrd Edition is surely one of the most eagerly-awaited events in the early music calendar. Previous discs in this award-winning survey of the greatest composer of the age have commanded the highest possible critical acclaim. Performances of filigree clarity, yet great passion and sincerity, allow the composer’s particular genius to shine forth in an unhindered blaze of glory. The works in this eleventh volume present Byrd the recusant: covering the last year of his fashionable career in London and moving to a quieter life in the Essex countryside. The music is from two sources: the magnificent Cantiones Sacrae of 1591 and the Gradualia from 1607. The seven motets from 1591 show Byrd to be pre-occupied with thoughts of desolation, loss, deprivation and separation—familiar ideas for the recusant Catholic community. A feeling of angst in the music is leavened by a sense of salvation and a glimmer of hope which is the composer’s constant refrain. The Gradualia are some of the most imaginative, modern-sounding and energetic music that the composer ever wrote. The Cardinall’s inspirational director Andrew Carwood sets the scene with fascinating booklet notes that illustrate the complex political and religious circumstances in which this great music was engendered.

“All save one of these works come from two collections published by William Byrd, Cantiones Sacrae, of 1591, and the 1607 Gradualia, the former among his most deeply touching pieces. Descendit de caelis, a setting of a respond for Christmas Day, tells of anguish rather than joy, betraying the heavy oppression that recusant Catholics, of whom Byrd was one, suffered in Elizabethan England. The pieces from Gradualia are all six-voice motets for the feast of Saints Peter and Paul, in which we hear Byrd at his most modern, with lively rhythms and dense, closely imitative counterpoints. Carwood and his 10 singers relish the music’s expressivity and sophistication to the full.” Sunday Times, 15th February 2009 ****

“The performances are admirably directed, responsive to words, clear in their exposition of counterpoint, carefully blended in the homophonic passages. The Cardinall's Musick is an expert body of singers who know exactly what they are doing.” Gramophone Magazine, April 2009

“…this performance is unparalleled in its depth of expression and intelligence. The Cardinall's Musick unerringly leads the listener to musical events that unlock Byrd's conception. These may be either one word invested with meaning ('miseracordium' in the celebrated 'Miserere mei, Deus'), a climax throughout a movement (in 'Circumdederunt me'), or a gesture that accrues meaning (the descending triad in 'Hodie Simon Petrus'). Crystalline sound reproduction ensures that every detail is captured.” BBC Music Magazine, April 2009 *****

“The works for St Peter and St Paul … positively shimmer with exuberance … the beauties of these performances are revealed: litheness, energy and intelligence” International Record Review

“The completion of this series will be a landmark, but don’t wait to hear this beautiful disc” Fanfare

“Andrew Carwood's programme-note begins with a comment on the motet Haec dicit Dominus with which the programme ends. The lament of Rachel weeping for her children is thematic, if indeed we are to see these Cantiones sacrae of 1591 as a cry on behalf of the old, true believers besieged in a Protestant stronghold. As Rachel wept then, so (it is suggested) does the Church now. And yet there is hope ('et est spes') and this is the message reiterated throughout these heartfelt works of a master craftsman.
This is the 11th volume in The Cardinall's Musick's edition of Byrd's Latin settings. Apart from the Cantiones, the other major source is the Gradualia of 1607, probably written for the Catholics of Ingatestone Hall in Essex. The Litany from Book 2 (1605) is the principal variant in the mode of composition, which is dense in imitative polyphony, usually in six parts, concentrated in the intensity of their utterance.
Particularly fine examples are the Miserere mei,Deus and the vigorous Exsurge, quare obdormis,Domine? with its strong, well defined climax.
The performances are admirably directed, responsive to words, clear in their exposition of counterpoint, carefully blended in the homophonic passages. The Cardinall's Musick is an expert body of singers who know exactly what they are doing. Even so, balance and tone are not everywhere ideal: the bass-line, for instance, though utterly reliable, has been so stripped of natural vibrancy that the tone is dulled. A small point, no doubt, in relation to the riches their work is opening up.”
Gramophone Classical Music Guide, 2010

GGramophone Awards 2009

Finalist - Early Music

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Hyperion Cardinall’s Musick Complete Byrd Edition - CDA67653


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Byrd Edition Volume 12 - Assumpta est Maria

Byrd Edition Volume 12 - Assumpta est Maria


Salve sancta parens

Benedicta et venerabilis

Felix es, sacra Virgo

Beata es, Virgo Maria

Beata Viscera

Quem terra, pontus, aethera

Salve regina (Cantiones Sacrae 1591)

O gloriosa Domina

Vultum tuum deprecabuntur

Ave Maria

Ecce virgo concipiet

Memento, salutis auctor

Salve sola Dei genetrix

Ave maris stella

Gaudeamus omnes

Propter veritatem et mansuetudinem

Assumpta est Maria

Optimam partem elegit

In this latest volume from The Cardinall’s Musick acclaimed Byrd series, the composer’s overtly Catholic agenda is clearly displayed. In an age when censorship was rife and spies were everywhere, it is not surprising that possession of the first volume of Gradualia should have been cited as one of the reasons for the arrest of a Jesuit priest called de Noiriche (although obviously the spies had other more compelling evidence to hand). Only one set of the 1605 partbooks remains intact, although they have had their introductory material removed and perhaps these volumes were considered too dangerous to own. This fear, whether real or perceived, was not enough to dissuade Byrd and his publisher from producing a second book of Gradualia in 1607, or from re-printing both volumes in 1610.

All of the music on this disc is drawn from the first volume of Gradualia published in 1605. The music is a world away from the dark broodings of the Cantiones Sacrae from 1589 and 1591 where Byrd is preoccupied with the melancholy which dominates his middle years. In the later publications Byrd achieves a fusion of styles, mixing the energy, word-painting and rhythmic vitality of the secular madrigal tradition with the spirituality and liturgical context of words from the Mass and Divine Office. The witty use of short bursts of melody often thrown from one voice to another, together with the energized rhythmic cells, suggests a man who is not obsessed with a hopeless cause. It may be that in the Essex countryside, surrounded by sympathetic folk, Byrd had found a real home away from the political maelstrom which raged in London. These pieces show a glimpse of the man which is rather different to our more usual perception of the composer racked with misery at the deprivation of Catholics in England. Here we see a man in the later stages of life, affected by the aftermath of the Reformation (as his earlier publications clearly show), yet who is now sufficiently relaxed and secure to be able to indulge his considerable wit and imagination, and who is confident enough to use the most up-to-date musical styles. Here there is no wringing of hands, nor downcast eyes but rather the musical embodiment of an unshakeable faith.

“A lively addition to this impressive series from The Cardinall's Musick. Some of the three-part hymns are masterly in their technical assurance, setting the voices free to wander and with the lightest touch recalling them to the fold for a cadence.” Gramophone Magazine, Awards Issue 2009

“Sublime music, then, an inspired and inspiring director and a series that Hyperion rescued from another label and has persevered with against all odds” International Record Review

“The Cardinall’s Musick under Andrew Carwood show the deep feeling as well as the dignity of these illicit and originally secret settings” The Independent on Sunday

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Byrd Edition Volume 13 - Infelix ego

Byrd Edition Volume 13 - Infelix ego


Venite, exsultemus Domino

Domine, non sum dignus

Visita, quaesumus Domine

Domine, salva nos

Haec dies a 6 (Cantiones Sacrae 1591)

Cunctis diebus

Gaudeamus omnes

Timete Dominum – Venite ad me

Lustorum Animae

Beati mundo corde

Deo gratias

Afflicti pro peccatis nostris

Cantate Domino

Laudate Dominum, omnes gentes

Infelix ego

The Cardinall’s Musick’s award-winning Byrd series reaches its final volume, which includes some of the composer’s most sublime and adventurous music, drawn in the main from the 1591 Cantiones Sacrae collection. Throughout this series it has become evident that a comprehensive survey such as this shows the genius of the composer in a uniquely effective way: by demonstrating the extraordinary variety and unsurpassable quality of his musical and liturgical achievements.

Andrew Carwood defines Byrd as the greatest composer of the age in his booklet note—as he writes: ‘If there is an English musician who comes close to Shakespeare in his consummate artistry, his control over so many genres and his ability to speak with emotional directness it must be William Byrd.’

The ‘title track’ of this volume, Infelix ego, is the crowning glory of Byrd’s achievement as a composer of spiritual words and one of the greatest artistic statements of the sixteenth century. This remarkable text, taking the form of a number of rhetorical statements and questions, shows the whole gamut of emotion from a soul in torment—guilt, fear, embarrassment, anger, but crucially the gift of release when Christ’s mercy is accepted. It can be seen as a microcosm of Byrd’s sacred music and a fitting crown to this series.

“The musical imagination of The Cardinall's Music does full justice to that of Byrd. The group's delivery is a sensual delight, as an individual singer's colours will flash up in polyphonic lines, then pool together with others in homophony.” BBC Music Magazine, March 2010 ****

“the craftsmanship [is] impeccable, and the expression seemingly so heartfelt...There is and has been much to praise...the commitment of singers and label alike is a cause for gratitude, perhaps even optimism. Congratulations to all concerned.” Gramophone Magazine, April 2010

Presto Disc of the Week

4th October 2010

GGramophone Awards 2010

Record of the Year

GGramophone Magazine

Editor's Choice - April 2010

40 Years of the Gramophone Awards

Hyperion Cardinall’s Musick Complete Byrd Edition - CDA67779


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Byrd: Mass for five voices

Byrd: Mass for five voices

with Propers for the Feast of Corpus Christi


Ego sum panis vivus

Mass for five voices

Ab ortu solis

Alleluia. Cognoverunt discipuli

O sacrum convivium

O salutaris hostia

Ave verum Corpus

William Byrd, together with Thomas Tallis as the joint holders of the Royal monopoly for printing music, was given free rein to compose sacred music for the Roman liturgy despite Elizabeth I being in principle opposed to such practice. The resulting works are masterpieces of the age, and the Mass for five voices, with its unashamedly Catholic presentation of the words, is the last and most beautiful of the three settings he made of this text.

The Mass is here presented in a ‘liturgical’ setting with the Propers for the Feast of Corpus Christi. Also included are six further works with connections to this period of the church’s year.

“A generously full CD, spaciously recorded in Winchester Cathedral. The main feature is the rapt, joyous singing of the choir in this magnificent music. Very fine” Hi-Fi News

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Byrd: The Complete Keyboard Music

Byrd: The Complete Keyboard Music

Davitt Moroney (harpsichords, muselar virginal, chamber organ, clavichord, Ahrend organ of l’Église-Musée des Augustins, Toulouse)

The Gramophone Award-winning artist, Davitt Moroney has spent more than fifteen years planning this momentous project and Hyperion are proud to be able to bring Davitt’s wealth of expertise and musicianship to the label.

As an authentic complete survey of this music, six different instruments have been used for the recording – two different harpsichords, muselar virginal, clavichord, chamber organ, and the Ahrend organ at L’Église-Musée des Augustins, Toulouse, France (where the huge and high nave creates an echo that lasts for nearly fifteen seconds, not unlike the acoustic at Lincoln Cathedral where Byrd was the organist and master of the choristers).

According to ancient legend, the phoenix (an image Byrd used in his first publication in 1575) is reborn from the centre of a blazing fire every five hundred years. Byrd, indeed, had to wait nearly as long before modern editions, concerts and recordings have been able to bring his music back to life. Davitt Moroney is the perfect musician for the job.

'Surely definitive and a triumph for all concerned … the quality of the interpretation flows flawlessly throughout the series … probably the most significant issue I have yet reviewed. There are so many glorious details in his playing that it is hard to know where to begin in its praise’ (Gramophone)

‘In his 100-page essay on William Byrd, Moroney argues forcefully that the 56 pavans and galliards deserve to be ranked with the 48 preludes and fugues of Bach and the 32 sonatas of Beethoven. And on the strength of his superb playing of a rich array of contrasting instruments, the case for Byrd as one of the great keyboard composers is more than justified: the extraordinary spectrum of influences from which the Elizabethan composer took his inspiration suggests a genius as versatile as the great baroque and classical masters. This marvellous set—recorded painstakingly over six years and only now released as an integral edition—provides invaluable insight into this relatively neglected aspect of Byrd’s prolific output. Moroney is as convincing on the organ—using 17th-century instruments or copies, but without the pedals that Byrd would not have known—as he is on the harpsichord, clavicord and virginals. A monument in the history of early-music recording’ (The Sunday Times)

‘If you have any interest at all in Byrd, keyboard music, English culture, or, indeed, music of any sort, buy this set’ (Early Music Review)

‘A triumph. Surely the definitive account for the foreseeable future’ (BBC Music Magazine)

GGramophone Awards 2000

Winner - Early Music

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Hyperion - CDS44461/7

(CD - 7 discs)

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Byrd: The Great Service

Byrd: The Great Service

and other English music


The Great Service

Praise our Lord, all ye Gentiles

Unto the hills mine eyes I lift

Make ye joy to God all the earth

Turn our captivity

This Day Christ was Born

The Cardinall’s Musick are acknowledged as the foremost performers of Byrd’s music. Under their director Andrew Carwood they have recorded the complete Latin church music, the final volume of which won the Gramophone Record of the Year. Now they turn to Byrd’s English church music, a genre which shows the composer treading a path between his own innate Catholicism and the requirements of the reformed Church of England. But far from sublimating Byrd’s genius this difficult situation gave rise to one of his most fertile periods.

The Great Service was described as ‘the finest unaccompanied setting of the Service in the entire repertory of English church music’ upon its discovery in 1922. Written for ten voices, it is gorgeously lavish and grand—very different to the simple, unmelismatic style demanded by the Anglican clerics. Byrd did not publish it in his lifetime.

Also recorded here are five beautiful English settings on sacred themes, but probably written for performance in the home. They are masterpieces in miniature: each work is so distinctive and demonstrates Byrd’s genius for word-painting, his typically Elizabethan wit and of course his imaginative handling of polyphony.

“The singing is neat, clear and fluid, with beautifully elastic phrasing from the two tenors. The Nunc Dimittis provides the sweetest moments in the Great Service itself” BBC Music Magazine, Christmas 2012 ****

“This is good news indeed...Carwood is particularly good at lightening the mood when Byrd adopts triple time...[The Great] really needs a larger body of singers for the contrast between 'verse' and 'full' sections to be effective. In the Magnificat the proud aren't scattered vigorously enough for my taste...Don't be put off by my reservations: the performances overall are excellent” Gramophone Magazine, December 2012

“this new recording is something special. Wheter it's because of the sheer experience of having sung so much of Byrd's music as to have assimilated his musical language utterly, or whether it's simply the raw musicianship and cultivated intelligence of the performers, there's a clarity and intensity in each verse that is spine-tingling.” International Record Review, December 2012

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Hyperion - CDA67937


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Byrd: The Three Masses

Byrd: The Three Masses


Mass for five voices

Mass for four voices

Mass for three voices

Ave verum Corpus

A new recording of the most perfect of Tudor masterpieces, Byrd’s three Mass-settings, from the cradle of their nineteenth-century rehabilitation. Westminster Cathedral Choir is enjoying a vintage period, and here we hear its trademark sound in all its glory: unfettered, natural singing from the trebles underpinned by warm yet clear tones from the gentlemen.

This recording celebrates Byrd’s Catholic Masses in two ways simultaneously. Most obviously, it addresses great and timeless works, which themselves address great and timeless liturgical texts. But at the same time it reminds us that the revival of Byrd’s Masses in the late nineteenth century was pioneered by Roman Catholic church choirs. This is a point worth pondering. Since the accession of Queen Elizabeth I in 1558, the choirs of England’s Protestant cathedrals and college chapels have had their own distinctive musical repertory, which has flourished and grown in unbroken tradition. The anthems and services of Thomas Tallis, for instance, have never fallen from cathedral use; they have been the epitome of Choral Evensong and Eucharist for more than four centuries. This Anglican repertory, however, is not what Roman Catholic worship requires. When major Catholic choral foundations were established in late Victorian and Edwardian England, at Downside Abbey, the Brompton Oratory, and above all at Westminster Cathedral, there was a quest for new and more relevant music; and it was at these places that William Byrd’s three Latin Masses were revived. Hence the pertinence of this recording; it celebrates that Catholic revival no less than it celebrates the works themselves.

“Westminster Cathedral Choir may sing them with more splendour and finesse than Byrd himself would have expected, yet the results are uplifting and moving. It's no slight to these musicians to say the disc is worth buying for the Byrd scholar John Milsom's incomparable notes: a masterly encapsulation of Tudor church music history in a few dense pages.” The Observer, 17th August 2014 *****

“unexaggerated performances, occasionally using solo voices for intimate effect.” Financial Times, 27th September 2014

“The Choir of Westminster Cathedral's approach is placid but not overly reverential: the longer-texted movements are formally clear and energetic where required...For the three-voice Mass the top voice is taken by a well-blended combination of boy altos and countertenors, making this the most distinctive interpretation of the three.” Gramophone Magazine, Awards Issue 2014

“Baker here boldly claims Byrd's three Masses for the Westminster Cathedral Choir...Despite the choir's muscle and numbers this disc's mood is intimate...Some Byrd devotees may object to Baker's preference for slow tempos, and his use of rallentandos to close movements. But the power of this performance is undeniable.” BBC Music Magazine, December 2014 *****

“the main challenge for Christie and Les Arts Florissants in The Ways of Zion is to keep the interest and momentum alive...But Christie meets the challenge head on, creating crests of passion which stand proud of the sea of misery...The singers of Les Arts Florissants...are certainly sensitive to other forms of dignity and grandeur, especially in Caroline's funeral anthem.” International Record Review, December 2014

“Martin Baker and his multitudinous singers...bring Byrd’s freeform melodic lines deftly into relief within a lush polyphonic texture, with emotional immediacy and a refreshing lack of fussiness” Choir & Organ, May 2015 ****

BBC Music Magazine

Choral & Song Choice - December 2014

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Hyperion - CDA68038


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Advent at St Paul’s

Advent at St Paul’s


Laudes Regiae

arr. Christopher Dearnley

Rejoice in the Lord alway

Angelus ad virginem

arr. Sir David Valentine Willcocks


A Hymn of Saint Columba


Virga Jesse floruit


Laetentur coeli

Carter, A:

Organ Toccata on Veni Emmanuel

Gibbons, O:

This is the Record of John


Ecce concipies

Lloyd, R:

Drop down ye heavens from above


Matin Responsory

arr. Sir David Valentine Willcocks

Vesper Responsory

arr. Christopher Dearnley

Parsons, R:

Ave Maria


Blow out the trumpet in Sion


Hymn to the Creator of Light


O come, o come, Emmanuel

arr. Andrew Carter


Hosanna to the Son of David


Echo Carol

Every year on Advent Sunday St Paul’s Cathedral in London holds an Advent Carol Service. This recording captures the mood and structure of this event, presenting a selection of the music which might be performed in its liturgical order.

The Church’s preparation for the coming of Christ begins in contemplative mood with the plainchant processional Laudes Regiae and the famous Mattins Responsory (‘I look from afar … ’). The wealth of music that follows is typical of the approach of this choir: traditional favourites such as Hosanna to the Son of David and the Parsons Ave Maria rest alongside contemporary works from composers such as John Rutter, Richard Lloyd and Philip Wilby. This album—and the hypothetical service—comes to an end with a joyous arrangement of the great hymn O come, O come, Emmanuel; an organ toccata on the same theme by Andrew Carter acts as the voluntary.

“This truly rich advent feast is performed wonderfully well on all counts and can be highly recommended” Organists Review

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