As a way of warming up to our Singing Retreat repertoire, here are a few suggestions for choral pieces you might like to listen to by the same composers….
We are going to be singing Omnes gentes, Tye’s setting of the psalm ‘O clap your hands together’. It is written in a taut, highly structured style which had been pioneered on the continent by the likes of Josquin Des Prez, but which took a while to influence English composers. But Tye was equally adept at the expansive, melismatic style of composition which we associate with the pre-Reformation period. A splendid example of this is his antiphon Peccavimus cum patribus which employs a full ‘orchestral’ range of vocal textures. The climactic Amen is one of the great passages in English Renaissance music.
It is harder to access recordings of Walmisley’s music beyond the Canticles in D minor and a few psalm chants. Walmisley was not as prolific a composer as contemporaries such as S.S. Wesley; perhaps because, as reports suggest, he was rather too enamoured of the college port at Trinity. Nevertheless, it is worth seeking out his extended anthem Remember, Lord, what is come upon us, recorded by St Paul’s Cathedral under John Scott; and perhaps one day somebody will see fit to perform and record it with the original orchestral accompaniment.
Charles Villiers Stanford
There are so many favourites to choose from: the Canticles in G, A and C, the Latin Motets written for Trinity College (Beati quorum via; Justorum animae and Coelos ascendit hodie) which are pretty much an obligatory part of a college choir’s tour repertoire, and grand anthems such as For lo I raise up. If you wish to experience Stanford outside of the Anglican liturgical milieu, then his double-choir Latin Magnificat, dedicated to his recently deceased friend Hubert Parry, shows Stanford channelling the Venetian Renaissance masters, but most especially Bach.
The Mistress of the Queen’s Music has been active across most classical genres; and the contemporary choral world is lucky that she devotes so much of her creative energy to choral music which is rarely so challenging that it lies outside the abilities of amateur ensembles. The Choir of Gonville and Caius College has recorded a wonderful selection; personal favourites are the setting of George Herbert’s Vertue, little tree, a Christmas work for upper voices and marimba, and the Blake setting My Guardian angel, which my own choir at St Catharine’s managed to commit to disc just before we were locked down for the first time.
Join us for Cambridge Choral Academy’s Singing Retreat 10-12 September 2021 – places still available!
Edward Wickham, June 2021