Monday 25 August 2014

The St. Cecilia Choir of Girls, Christ Church, Greenwich, Connecticut new recording of Music from Lent to Easter deserves to be heard especially given the fine choice of works on this new release from MSR Classics

To many the St. Cecilia Choir of Girls, Christ Church, Greenwich, Connecticut  will be unknown. Perhaps the repertoire, on a new disc from MSR Classics, of Music from Lent to Easter will not necessarily attract much attention.

This would be an enormous shame as this choir is of such a standard that they are a match for many English collegiate choirs. The repertoire on this new disc is very well chosen ranging from plainchant and Pergolesi through to Stanford, Peter Hurford and Philip Moore.

MS 1426

The St. Cecilia Choir of Girls under their Director of Music, Jamie Hitel , serves as the principal choir for the 9.15am service at Christ Church each Sunday. The choir consists of girls from 3rd grade through high school seniors. The St. Cecilia Choir of Girls visited England for twelve days in July 2010, singing services in Exeter Cathedral and St. George's Chapel, Windsor Castle. Girl and boy choristers combined for a highly successful tour of England in the summer of 2012, where they spent a week singing services at York Minster and Coventry Cathedral. 

Their new CD entitled A Thing most Beautiful is divided into two halves, Lent and Passiontide and Easter.

The music for Lent and Passiontide opens with John Ireland’s Ex ore innocentium opened by soloist Gabriella Hitela who displays a lovely pure voiced sound, catching something of the timbre of a boy treble, especially the upper notes. As the choir enter, they too have an especially fine tone, very Anglican in sound in this lovely performance.

In César Franck’s Panis Angelicus it is lovely the way Jamie Hitel draws subtle little dynamics and textures from the choir – exquisitely done. Plainsong can leave voices terribly exposed but with the Plainsong Lent Prose this choir have a consistently accurate and appealing quality.

By the Waters of Babylon by Colin Mawby (b.1936) is a very fine work, slowly building from a gentle opening and rising, midway, full of passion. There is some particularly fine singing as the music falls to the gentle coda.

Peter Hurford (b.1930) will be known to most people as one of the finest organists of his generation. Here his Litany to the Holy Spirit brings an attractive directness of utterance and a timeless quality to the writing. This fine choir bring some lovely touches.

Soloist, Victoria Hoffmeister opens the Plainsong Pange Lingua responded to by the choir with the Christ Church acoustic adding much to the attraction of this performance, so finely judged.

Next the St. Cecilia Choir of Girls sing the first section of Giovanni Pergolesi’s Stabat Mater. Organist, Alistair Reid provides some lovely playing as he sets the rhythm and pace before the choir flows forward in a confident, beautifully layered performance with Reid adding further lovely touches.

Charles Villiers Stanford’s A Song of Hope proves to be a powerful piece, with a full organ contribution and some glorious vocal passages with well controlled dynamics from the choir.

Soloist, Madeline Wolf, opens Malcolm Archer’s (b.1952) My song is love unknown. She has a lovely voice with some fine lower textures. When the choir join they bring out all the varying textures of this fine setting with a lovely conclusion.

The music for Easter begins with the Plainsong Victimae Paschali with lovely contributions from the two soloists, Katherine Meurer and Madeleine Hitel.

Handel is represented here by his  If God be for us, a fine choice from Messiah in which both organist and choir bring a suitably Handelian flavour with some lovely long held notes and phrases and some finely done intricate passages.

Thomas Foster’s (b. 1938) Lift your voice, rejoicing, Mary opens with Victoria Hoffmeister (flute) accompanied by the organ before the choir gently lead on in this rather fine piece where the flute makes a natural and fitting addition to the texture with its pastoral in feel.

There is an exceptionally fine performance of Purcell’s Sound the trumpet with long held notes and some lovely overlaying of voices.

Christ Church’s Visiting Artist, Philip Moore (b.1943)  provides a particularly individual and attractive setting Come, thou fount of every blessing with a beautiful melody, very finely sung by this choir and developing in texture in the final verse. This is a very fine work indeed.

Richard Wyton (flute) adds a fine texture to J. S. Bach’s Ich folge dir gleichfalls bringing a delicacy that combines well with these lovely transparent voices.  Claude Means (1912-1999) was Organist and Choirmaster at Christ Church, Greenwich from 1934 to 1972) His gentle Savior, like a shepherd, lead us receives a perfectly paced and moulded performance. It is a lovely little work.

The music of Philip Moore returns to conclude this disc with his Jubilate Deo. After a brief organ opening this choir bring a joy and lightness in a very fine performance of this brilliantly written piece; so uplifting.

This fine choir deserve to be heard especially in the fine choice of works on this disc. They receive sensitive support from organist Alistair Reid and are finely recorded in the sympathetic acoustic of Christ Church, Greenwich, Connecticut.

There are notes on the music set alongside composer information and full texts and English translations.

There are biographical notes on Director of Music, Jamie Hitel, organist Alistair Reid and Visiting Artist, Philip Moore. The individual choir members are credited but I would have liked more information about this fine choir.

1 comment:

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