An English Christmas

Program: #16-52   Air Date: Dec 19, 2016

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New seasonal music from The Sixteen, the Choir of Clare College Cambridge, and the Mellstock Band and Choir.

I. Mater ora filium—Music for Epiphany (Choir of Clare College, Cambridge/Graham Ross). harmonia Mundi CD HMU 907653.

Mater ora filium: Music for Epiphany

Graham Ross directs the Choir of Clare College, Cambridge in music celebrating the feast of Epiphany, culminating in Arnold Bax’s unaccompanied double-choir masterpiece, 'Mater ora filium' (1926). The feast of Epiphany falls on 6 January, 12 days after Christmas. Marked in the Christian world with the story of the Magi, many composers have been inspired by the account of ‘the three kings’ following the star, bringing their gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh. This sequence of music explores some of the greatest musical contributions to the feast, principally from the 16th and 20th centuries. Three great Epiphany hymns frame this sequence, all in new arrangements by Graham Ross, and all here receiving their première recordings. Graham Ross has also written the excellent booklet note and is aided and abetted, again, by John Rutter as producer, engineer and editor.

From Gramophone: Taking inspiration from the seasons of the Anglican year – Advent, Passiontide, Pentecost, Easter – Graham Ross and the mixed-voice Choir of Clare College, Cambridge, have put together a thoughtful series of recordings that keep one foot in traditional Oxbridge Renaissance repertoire while also moving that tradition determinedly forwards into the 21st century. Their latest disc – ‘Music for Epiphany’ – is no exception, offering a collision of new and old that coalesces into a seasonal collection that works just as well as a recital as it does a reference recording … The performances of the Renaissance repertoire are characteristically strong … but it’s in the 20th-century works that Ross and his young singers come into their own. Fluid phrasing and expressive diction bring out the folk roots of the Howells and Warlock, while the exposed simplicity of I wonder as I wander and Berkeley’s I sing of a maiden is deftly handled, especially by the impeccably blended top line. Bax’s Mater ora filium makes a climactic closer, its episodic structure paced beautifully. Classic Epiphany hymns (most of them in sometimes unexpected arrangements by Ross himself) are a bonus, providing the supporting pillars for this wide-ranging collection. --Alexandra Coghlan

--Bax: Mater Ora Filium
--Berkeley, L: I sing of a maiden
--Bingham, J: Epiphany
--Byrd: Ecce Advenit
--Clemens: Magi veniunt ab oriente
--Cornelius: The Three Kings
--Howells: Long, Long Ago
--Howells: Here is the Little Door
--Lasso: Omnes de Saba
--Mouton, J: Nesciens Mater
--Niles: I wonder as I wander
--Palestrina: Tribus miraculis ornatum
--Poulenc: Videntes stellam (No. 3 from Quatre Motets pour le temps de Noël, Op.152)
--Sheppard, J: Reges Tharsis et insulae
--trad.: O worship the lord
--trad.: Hail to the Lord’s Anointed! (arr. Graham Ross) World première recording.
--trad.: As with gladness men of old (arr. Graham Ross) World première recording
--Warlock: Bethlehem Down
--Warlock: Benedicamus Domino
--Weir: Illuminare, Jerusalem

II. Song of the Nativity (The Sixteen/Harry Christophers). Coro CD 16146.

Song of the Nativity

The Sixteen contrasts the dramatic intensity of music by some of today’s most admired composers with such traditional and modern carols as Boris Ord’s Adam lay ybounden and Henry Walford Davies’ version of O little town of Bethlehem. Much-loved modern classics including John Rutter’s There is a flower, Morten Lauridsen’s O magnum mysterium and James MacMillan’s O radiant dawn also appear on this beautiful album and there are many others which, in the course of time, will also become classics; every one of them by their unashamed simplicity, captures the joy and sincerity of this most wonderful of seasons. This album provides a perfect peaceful and uplifting antidote to the hectic pre-Christmas rush.

Lauridsen O magnum mysterium
Skempton Adam lay ybounden
Trad. The Saviour's work
Jackson The Christ-child
Warlock Bethlehem down
Trad. A Gallery Carol
Todd My Lord has come
Ireland The Holy Boy
Walford Davies O little town...
Gardner When Christ was born...
McDowall Now may we singen
Trad. Children's Song…
Ord Adam lay ybounden
Roth Song of the Shepherds
Trad. Somerset Car
Chilcott The Shepherd's Carol
Trad. This endris night
Rutter There is a flower
Trad. Christmas Eve
Bullard And all the stars...
Trad. Dutch Carol
MacMillan O radiant dawn

III. Awake and Join the Cheerful Choir (Maddy Prior/Carnival Band/Mellstock Band & Choir). Saydisc CD CDSDL 442.


This new release is a bouquet of traditional hymns taken from 18th and 19th century hymnals. These beloved works have been passed down from generation to generation, and remain some of the most sung hymns in churches across the globe. The Mellstock Band & Choir perform music from the Hardy family and Puddletown Church manuscripts using authentic instruments as they would have been performed by a village band in Hardy’s Wessex. Maddy Prior and The Carnival Band were formed in 1984 for a BBC Radio 2 broadcast of Christmas carols. The broadcast became an album, which was enthusiastically received by the public. Each member of the ensemble enjoys their own career, but the group is always happy to come together for a project like this, with opportunities to combine styles and talents.

1 How Firm A Foundation - (Maddy Prior & The Carnival Band) 2.53
2 Rejoice This Glorious Day Is Come - (The Mellstock Band & Choir) 4.42
3 And Can It Be? - (Maddy Prior & The Carnival Band) 3.43
4 Light of the World - (Maddy Prior & The Carnival Band) 3.45
5 As Pants the Hart - (Maddy Prior & The Carnival Band) 2.25
6 Arise and Hail the Joyful Day - (The Mellstock Band & Choir) 2.41
7 Who Would True Valour See - (Maddy Prior & The Carnival Band) 3.05
8 Awake and Join the Cheerful Choir - (The Mellstock Band & Choir) 2.52
9 Away With Our Sorrow and Care - (Maddy Prior & The Carnival Band) 3.15
10 Lo He Comes With Clouds Descending - (Maddy Prior, Carnival Band) 3.35
11 A Virgin Most Pure - (Maddy Prior & The Carnival Band) 5.12
12 Behold the Morning Star - (The Mellstock Band & Choir) 2.08
13 Infant Holy - (Maddy Prior & The Carnival Band) 1.23
14 Lord, In the Morning - (Maddy Prior & The Carnival Band) 2.42
15 The God of Abraham Praise - (Maddy Prior & The Carnival Band) 3.06
16 See Heaven's High Portals - (The Mellstock Band & Choir) 2.53
17 Rejoice Ye Shining Worlds - (Maddy Prior & The Carnival Band) 2.06
18 Awake Awake Ye Mortals All - (The Mellstock Band & Choir) 2.10
19 All Hail the Power of Jesus' Name - (Maddy Prior & The Carnival Band) 4.00
20 While Shepherds Watched - (The Mellstock Band & Choir) 2.51
21 Unto Us A Boy Is Born - (Maddy Prior & The Carnival Band) 2.56
22 O Thou Who Camest From Above - (Maddy Prior & The Carnival Band) 2.32
23 O For a Thousand Tongues to Sing - (Maddy Prior & The Carnival Band) 3.46
24 O Worship the King - (Maddy Prior & The Carnival Band) 3.23
25 Christ the Lord is Risen Today - (Maddy Prior & The Carnival Band) 3.12

IV. Christus natus est—An Early English Christmas (The Sixteen/Harry Christophers). Coro CD 16027.

Christus Natus Est: An Early English Christmas

A medley of carols ranging from the demure to the rustic; a simple expression of joy and wonder. Some have an element of dance in them, including some of the ‘Devil’s best tunes given back to God’ in the form of carols. A collection of appropriate medieval instruments, including fiddles, harps, lutes and drums, accompanies the singers.

1. Verbum caro (chant)
2. Salutation Carol
3. Nowell sing we, both all and some
4. Gaudete
5. Hail Mary full of grace
6. Gloria in excelsis (Sheppard)
7. There is no rose
8. Nowell, nowell: Out of your sleep
9. Remember O thou man
10. Quid petis, O fili? (Pygott)
11. Sweet was the song
12. Lullaby my sweet little baby (Byrd)
13. Ave rex angelorum
14. Drive the cold winter away
15. Nowell, nowell: The boares head
16. The old year now has passed away
17. Angelus ad virginem
18. Nowell, nowell: Dieu vous garde
19. Make we joy
20. Verbum caro (Sheppard)

Composer Info

Arnold Bax, Berkeley, L, Bingham, J, Byrd, Clemens, Cornelius, Howells, Lasso, Mouton, J, Niles, Palestrina, Poulenc, Sheppard, J, Warlock, Weir, Boris Ord, Henry Walford Davies, John Rutter, Morten Lauridsen, James MacMillan, Pygott

CD Info

CD HMU 907653, CD 16146, CD CDSDL 442, Coro CD 16027