Sunday, 18 October 2009

King's College Cambridge: England, My England

I recently had the opportunity to review this latest compilation from King’s College Cambridge. Now I am not a big fan of compilations especially when they excerpt movements from larger works or even excise a small purple passage from a movement or piece. However, this present CD is not too bad on that score. After a brief introduction, I suggested a few tips to use in approaching this CD.

I guess that a lot of purchasers of this new release will just bang it into their CD players in the car and let rip. They will allow this music to envelop them as they drive along the West Lancs Road or around the M25. And there is probably nothing wrong with that. Concentration is what is needed for this present CD, in spite of its largely ‘popular’ appeal. It is not a fashion accessory, but a compendium of some of the greatest and most uplifting music written in England and performed by the country’s most the iconic choirs.
What tips can I give for a logical exploration of England, My England? Well, first of all it can be sliced vertically or horizontally, by which I mean chronologically or by genre. I would prefer the latter. Now I imagine that most purchasers of a double CD of music by the world’s greatest ‘church’ choir (not just my opinion!) will have a certain sympathy with religious and liturgical music even if they do not sit in the choir stalls or the pews twice on a Sunday! So, perhaps the first group of pieces to explore are the Hymns. These are the ones that my late mother would have wanted to listen to. She was always singing them around the house and enjoyed hearing them sung by a good choir. All the big hitters are here. The ultimately tragic Abide with Me written by Henry Francis Lyte as he lay dying from tuberculosis and later to become a favourite of the Military and the F.A. Cup Final. The fine processional Praise my Soul the King of Heaven, the masterpiece of hymnology by Vaughan Williams, Come down of Love Divine and his Coronation arrangement of the massive Old Hundredth- All People that on Earth do Dwell. But King’s College do not forget the more intimate moments associated with the service of Evensong. Favourites include Orlando Gibbons exquisite Drop, drop slow tears and the ever popular The Day that thou gavest Lord is ended is beautifully sung…
I concluded my review by considering the title of the CD and then gave it a strong recommendation:-
The title of the CD is refreshingly ambiguous. Different people will read different things into it. I thought of D.H. Lawrence’s short story, a friend suggested that it was derived from the largely forgotten poet W.H. Henley’s largely forgotten poem “What have I done for you/England, my England”. And then there was a film about the life of Henry Purcell with that name...
…this is great value and is a fine introduction to English Choral music. This is sung with the unmistakable King’s College sound that evokes the atmosphere of the fundamentally Christian religious sensibilities of this country. This is a CD that can be enjoyed by all lovers of choral music, irrespective of their belief. It is a CD that manifests the spirit of Christianity as well as the long tradition of that faith in England and her music.

Please read the full review at MusicWeb International and also listen to short samples from this great album on YouTube.

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