Choir Of St John's College, Cambridge, Andrew Nethsingha - The Tree

Published Tuesday 9th November 2021
Choir Of St John's College, Cambridge, Andrew Nethsingha - The Tree
Choir Of St John's College, Cambridge, Andrew Nethsingha - The Tree

STYLE: Choral
RATING 9 9 9 9 9 9 9 9 9
OUR PRODUCT CODE: 180650-30032
LABEL: Signum Classics SIGCD691
FORMAT: CD Album

Reviewed by Steven Whitehead

The prolific Choir of St John's, Cambridge under its director Andrew Nethsingha here present a retrospective album that pays tribute to two former directors, both of whom have celebrated Big Birthdays of late with David Hill reaching 65 and Christopher Robinson 85. In his interesting booklet notes Nethsingha observes how a choir continues to sound the same even though, over the years, directors and singers come and go. He uses the analogy of a tree putting down roots and growing branches, changing throughout the year and yet remaining the same tree. Building on this he has assembled an enjoyable collection of pieces, many with St John's associations that allow the choir and its friends every opportunity to shine. We open with the choir's trebles singing Hildegard of Bingen's 'O Pastor Animarum' ('O Shepherd Of Our Souls'). This is followed by a composition by a former student at St John's, Jonathan Harvey, with the title track, originally composed for the 75th anniversary of the Church Music Society in 1985. Another commission, this time for James Long (born 1987) was for St John's 500th anniversary. This is 'Sicut Acquilae' using a text from Isaiah 40 and includes a splendid trumpet part, played here by the outstanding Jack Ross. So far this will sound somewhat obscure to all but choral specialists but the programme opens up to include some better-known names including three ex-St Johnians in Herbert Howells, Jonathan Harvey and Christopher Robinson. Also, the performers grow from just the trebles gradually adding organ, then lower voices, a second choir (David Hill's Yale Schola Cantorum), 150 additional singers, and eventually combining nearly 500 voices together with former members and friends of the college choir and the returning directors Robinson and Hill who share duties with the current incumbent, Andrew Nethsingha culminating in the contemplative 'God so loved the world' by John Stainer contrasted with the roof-raising 'Love Divine - all loves excelling' complete with descant by Christopher Robinson. It is a full programme taking us from the ancient to the modern and with many highlights along the way. This listener is always pleased to hear Edward Elgar's 'The Spirit of the Lord', particularly when it is sung as well as it is here and likewise 'A Hymn for St Cecilia' by Herbert Howells is always a joy. Anyone with a connexion to St John's College will enjoy this collection as will all who appreciate Anglican choral singing.

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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