The King's Singers - Christmas Presence

Published Sunday 5th November 2017
The King's Singers - Christmas Presence
The King's Singers - Christmas Presence

STYLE: Choral
RATING 9 9 9 9 9 9 9 9 9
LABEL: Signum Classics SIGCD497

Reviewed by Steven Whitehead

The essence of The King's Singers has always been live performance with commercial recordings being important as a way of disseminating the material to a wider audience. 'Christmas Presence' was first released in 2015 as a live experience being recorded in the Singers' spiritual home of the Chapel of King's College, Cambridge and in 2017, the Golden Jubilee year of the King's Singers, was re-released in an expanded version, now running to 52 minutes. The repertoire takes us from medieval to modern with the first eight tracks (out of 18) being sung in Latin. We start with the traditional "Hodie Christus Natus Est" followed by works by Orlando de Lassus, Michael Praetorius, William Byrd, Jan Pieterszoon Sweelinck and three from Francis Poulenc. We then switch to English texts, starting with "A Spotless Rose" by Herbert Howells although we do take a detour into Spanish with Ariel Ramirez's "La Peregrinacion" as well as moving between sacred and secular with Mel Torme's "Christmas Song" (the one with the chestnuts roasting on an open fire) and a very lively "Jingle Bells" in Gordon Langford's arrangement for the secular celebration. Representing the best of contemporary Christmas music is Clive Smith's inventive setting of "I Saw Three Ships" but the best of the best is kept to last with former King's Singers' Bob Chilcott's glorious setting of Richard of Chichester's "Thanksgiving" with the Singers joined by The National Youth Choir of Great Britain. For anyone with an interest in contemporary choral music this is worth the price of admission on its own. However there are no weak links anywhere in the collection. The current version of the King's Singers is as good as ever and marks David Hurley's departure as first countertenor after 26 years. The other countertenor is Timothy Wayne-Wright and we also applaud Julian Gregory (tenor), baritones Christopher Bruerton and Christopher Gabbitas, and bass Jonathan Howard. The King's Singers are national treasures and this collection is an excellent celebration of what they bring to choral music.

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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