Choir of St Michael At The North Gate, Tom Hammond-Davies - The Cranmer Legacy

Published Monday 18th February 2013
Choir of St Michael At The North Gate, Tom Hammond-Davies - The Cranmer Legacy
Choir of St Michael At The North Gate, Tom Hammond-Davies - The Cranmer Legacy

STYLE: Choral
RATING 8 8 8 8 8 8 8 8
LABEL: Regent REGCD389

Reviewed by Steven Whitehead

At first glance the CD cover does not look very interesting: a key-hole in an old door. However when we read on we find that this is in fact a door in the tower of the Church of St Michael at the North Gate in Oxford, through which the Protestant martyrs Hugh Latimer, Nicholas Ridley and Archbishop Thomas Cranmer made their final walk to their deaths on 21st March 1556. So while this is not a release to be taken lightly it is nevertheless a celebration of Cranmer's lasting legacy: the 1662 revision of the Book of Common Prayer based as it was on Cranmer's work from between 1549 and 1552. There are, of course, many who continue to cherish the BCP. Whether it still speaks to the unchurched majority in 21st century Britain cannot be discussed in a brief review but we are certain that all who enjoy traditional Anglican choral music will appreciate this release. In it we hear first recordings of Vaughan Williams' Service in D minor and Paul Spicer's "Let Not Your Heart Be Troubled", and a new recording of Walford Davies beautiful Short Requiem, plus John Sanders' "The Firmament". All are worth hearing - and using, if your church follows in this tradition. It is true that Vaughan Williams' Communion setting is not quite VW at his best but it is far more than a mere curiosity. The Church of St Michael at the North Gate is the oldest surviving building in Oxford, dating in part back to Norman times. The Choir, directed by Tom Hammond-Davies, is mixed and although not the equal of some of the stronger college choirs is still more than adequate and does full justice to the music, ably accompanied by the up and coming young organist Benjamin Bloor. Those with an affection for the Book of Common Prayer and all lovers of traditional church choral music will enjoy this release. It is well recorded at the Chapel of Exeter College by Paul Spicer and Gary Cole and the CD notes are both interesting and informative.

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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