Ely Cathedral Girls' Choir, Sarah MacDonald - Penitence And Redemption

Published Wednesday 6th March 2013
Ely Cathedral Girls' Choir, Sarah MacDonald - Penitence And Redemption
Ely Cathedral Girls' Choir, Sarah MacDonald - Penitence And Redemption

STYLE: Choral
RATING 9 9 9 9 9 9 9 9 9
LABEL: Regent REGCD397

Reviewed by Steven Whitehead

This CD falls into two halves, both of about 35 minutes. We start with 10 different pieces, all well sung and all worth hearing, and conclude with the famous 'Stabat Mater' by Giovanni Battista Pergolesi (1710-1736). We believe that every collection of classical Christian choral music should contain a copy of Pergolesi's 'Stabat Mater' - and so do the record labels, as there are more than a few out there. If you have one, do you need another? Let it be said that the Ely Cathedral Girls' Choir do a splendid job here along with members of the Cambridge University Baroque Ensemble. Pergolesi wrote for castratos so a girls' choir is probably as close as we are going to get unless we find a male soprano - and there are some out there. So do not be put off if you have a Pergolesi in your collection and if you have not then you do not need to read any further: go and get this CD now. The programme opens with Herbert Sumsion's setting of Mrs Alexander's "There Is A Green Hill Far Away". You probably know the words - they were written to be easily remembered and to teach profound truths as simply as possible. But the much-loved tune "Horsley" is perhaps too well known to make it a popular choral piece, hence this exquisite setting composed for the Choir of Repton Preparatory School and published in 1982. Well worth hearing - and singing, too. Next is "The Father's Love" from John 15, set by the prolific and versatile Simon Lole; another new one to me and another I would like to sing myself. There are some familiar pieces, including "Adoramus te, Christe" by William Byrd, "Ex ore innocentium" by John Ireland, and "Drop, drop, slow tears" by Orlando Gibbons as well as a familiar tune by Hubert Parry, "Repton" or, if you prefer, "Dear Lord and Father of mankind" but here in its original guise as a contralto aria "Long since in Egypt's plenteous land" from his oratorio 'Judith'. "Andrew's Song" is a setting of George Herbert's "Love" by John Penny, a semi retired priest who assists at Ely. The melody came to him after the sad death of his newborn son Andrew and was arranged by Sarah MacDonald. None of us will have known Andrew Penny but if ever you hear his song you will be pleased to have heard about him. Another piece with an Ely connexion is "Misere mei, Deus" by the Choir Director Sarah MacDonald who needed an upper voice anthem for Ash Wednesday and came up with this, based on Psalm 51 and sounding not unlike something Arvo Part may have written. This is truly a delightful collection of material both old and new, all sung most beautifully in Ely Cathedral and captured perfectly by producer Gary Cole. Highly recommended.

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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Reader Comments

Posted by Sarah in Ely @ 16:34 on Mar 7 2013

Just to say that the "Sarah" who arranged Andrew's Song is not his wife, but rather the conductor of ECGC. Thanks for the kind words though!

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