Reviewed by Steven Whitehead
While there is much to enjoy as a listening experience this CD is, for me, flawed. While attendance at services in British Cathedrals is on the increase, particularly for the service of Choral Evensong, for me the attraction is being there and participating in an act of worship. As a listener I feel too detached although the choral parts are sung very well and I may return to these parts of the service while using the skip button for the spoken and chanted parts. Not that there is anything wrong. The Very Reverend Vivienne Faull, Dean of York, reads the First Lesson, which is Genesis chapter 28, verses 11 to 18 in the New Revised Standard Version. It is an interesting story and she reads it well but once is enough for me and I would say the same for 1 Peter 2, 1 to 10 read by The Reverend Canon Dr Christopher Collingwood, Chancellor. The Reverend Canon Peter Moger is the Precentor, the one that leads the chants, and he is absolutely first class. Indeed, if I do return to this CD it may well be as a teaching aid in my day job as a primary school teacher. Next time we visit our parish church as part of our religious studies I might play the CD (subject to appropriate licenses being in place) to let the children hear how this form of worship should sound. The music is excellent throughout being well played and well sung and always worth hearing. Our organist is Benjamin Morris, Assistant Director of Music at York Minster. He provides an opening Improvisation which continues into a Bell and Aisle Prayer. He accompanies the Choir in the service and then shines with the final organ voluntary, "Symphony In F Sharp Minor" by Louis Vierne. The generous acoustic of York Minster, ably captured by producer/engineer Gary Cole, is harnessed by the York Minster Choir under Director of Music Robert Sharpe. The programme includes well-loved settings of the Preces and Responses by William Smith, Psalms 69 and 70 set by Charles Leigh Naylor and George Surtees Talbot respectively, the Magnifcat and Nunc Dimittis from Herbert Howells' "St Paul's Service", the anthems "Blessed City, Heavenly Salem" by Edward Cuthbert Bairstow and another Howells in "O Pray For The Peace Of Jerusalem". The best is saved for last with Ralph Vaughan Williams' "Te Deum Laudamus In G" and I estimate that the musical content makes up about 55 of the 77 minutes of the CD. As a record of what a Choral Evensong should sound like this is indispensable and as a choral recital by a top choir on top form there is enough here to make this a worthwhile purchase for all who appreciate traditional choral singing.
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