Choir of Clare College, Cambridge, Graham Ross - Mater Ora Filium: Music For Epiphany

Published Thursday 15th December 2016
Choir of Clare College, Cambridge, Graham Ross - Mater Ora Filium: Music For Epiphany
Choir of Clare College, Cambridge, Graham Ross  - Mater Ora Filium: Music For Epiphany

STYLE: Choral
RATING 9 9 9 9 9 9 9 9 9
OUR PRODUCT CODE: 163925-25157
LABEL: Harmonia Mundi HMU907653

Reviewed by Steven Whitehead

There is a moment in the title track, Arnold Bax's a cappella tour de force from 1926, "Mater Ora Filium", where the sopranos have to hit a climactic high C and then hold it for three bars. Breathtaking in more than one sense of the word and evidence both for how good this choir is and the confidence that Graham Ross the director has in his singers. The feast of Epiphany falls on 6th 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 wise men following the star, bringing their gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh. This collection explores some of the greatest musical contributions to the feast, principally from the 16th and 20th centuries. Three great Epiphany hymns frame the sequence: "O Worship The Lord In The Beauty Of Holiness", "Hail To The Lord's Anointed", and "As With Gladness Men Of Old". All are new arrangements by Graham Ross, all here receive their première recordings, and all are worth hearing and indeed singing. The earliest work in the programme is also, to my ears at least, almost as startling as the Bax. It is "Nesciens Mater", a setting of the Antiphon for the Octave of the Nativity by the French Renaissance composer Jean Mouton (c 1459-1522). It is a quadruple canon yet sounds almost free-form in its spontaneity. I have not heard anything quite like it and now want to hear more. The only living composers represented are the Judiths Bingham (born 1952) with "Epiphany" and Weir (born 1954) who contributes "Illuminare, Jerusalem" but, in addition to Graham Ross we also hear living arrangers in David Hill (born 1957) with Peter Warlock's lovely "Bethlehem Down" and John Rutter (born 1945) looking after John Jacob Niles' popular "I Wonder As I Wander". I hope this gives at least a flavour of what is on offer. As I have said, the singing is superb and listeners who are ready to explore off the well-worn path of the same old same old Christmas choral music will be richly rewarded by this release.

The opinions expressed in this article are not necessarily those held by Cross Rhythms. Any expressed views were accurate at the time of publishing but may or may not reflect the views of the individuals concerned at a later date.

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Sample Track Listing:
1. Omnes De Saba [Listen]
2. O Worship The Lord In The Beauty Of Holiness! [Listen]
3. Reges Tharsis [Listen]
4. Ecce Advenit Dominator Dominus [Listen]
5. Tribus Miraculis Ornatum [Listen]
6. Magi Veniunt Ab Oriente [Listen]
7. Nesciens Mater [Listen]
8. Videntes Stellam [Listen]
9. Long, Long Ago [Listen]
10. Epiphany [Listen]
11. Hail To The Lord's Anointed! [Listen]
12. Bethlehem Down [Listen]
13. Illuminare, Jerusalem [Listen]
14. I Wonder As I Wander [Listen]
15. Here Is The Little Door [Listen]
16. The Three Kings [Listen]
17. I Sing Of A Maiden [Listen]
18. Benedicamus Domino [Listen]
19. As With Gladness Men Of Old [Listen]
20. Mater Ora Filium [Listen]

This track data is supplied by the Cross Rhythms CD/DVD review library. Please note that CD tracks may vary according to release region or product version.

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