Reviews

GMCD 7101 –  Canticum Novum

The Girl Choristers, The Boy Choristers,
The Lay Vicars of Salisbury Cathedral,
Richard Seal – Director, David Halls – Organ

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Laudate

The title ‘Canticum Novum’ is justified on a number of counts, but two in particular. To begin with, Guild Music Ltd. have recently taken over Guild Records (previously run, over lengthy period, by Nicholas Ware and Barry Rose): a feature on this new development will appear in the next issue of Laudate. Secondly, and perhaps more importantly for most readers, this marks the debut recording of Salisbury’s recently-established team of girl choristers – and an outstanding debut it is!’
New’ does not end there, however, for a number of new, or recently-composed works, one (Robert Chilcott’s anthem Even such is time) specially written to include the girls of the Cathedral choir, make their first appearance on record. Readers with a sense of irony will find it strange that the boys, not the girls, are the treble participants in Richard Shephard’s anthem The old order changeth!All the ingredients for an interesting and enterprising programme, then, have been set out, and no listener can possibly be disappointed by either music or performances.
Salisbury has been within the very top flight of cathedral choirs for many years, and Richard Seal, without question, is one of the country’s leading choir trainers, than whom nobody is better suited to mastermind the establishment of the country’s first cathedral girls’ choir. Moreover, the girls have speedily achieved a level of real excellence, a perfect match for the boys (if any such odious comparisons must be made): both groups are clearly on best form here, well complemented by Salisbury’s excellent men and superb organ playing, in both solos and accompaniments from David Halls.Familiar and unfamiliar sit side by side; so that the recording opens with a most atmospheric and spacious performance of Parry’s My soul, there is a country, with boys and men, to be followed by the girls debut (with men and organ) in Philip Moore’s marvellous Brittenesque setting of words from Ecclesaisticus 1 and Psalm 119. No need to itemise everything; all the performances are fine, and some are outstanding. Two of these finest performances are those of Britten’s Hymn to the Virgin, sung so sensitively by girls and men, and the final piece in which boys, men,. organ and (for this one item) solo trumpet combine to provide a most exhilarating performance of Richard Shephard’s Eastertide anthem Ye choirs of New Jerusalem.The recording, like the performances, is excellent. This is a ‘must’ for every church musician’s record collection, certainly the most enterprising and original Anglican cathedral disc to come your reviewer’s way in a long time.
Roger Wilkes

“Church Times” Church of England

Newspaper Salisbury Cathedral pioneered the girls’ choir; and the fruits of that initiative can be heard on Canticum Novum a new Guild disc, writes Roderic Dunnen.

By keeping the boys’ and girls’ choirs separate, Richard Seal has allowed each to retain its excellence. The sound is uncannily similar, so working together of occasions (not merging) is clearly an option.

On the disc the laurels go to the girl’s at ease in both the catchy rhythms of Philip Moore’s all Wisdom Cometh from the Lord and the Pounding Ostinati of Robert Chilcott’s even such is time. Their Poulenc is stylish and their psalms up to scratch; though Britten’s hymn to the Virgin is just a fraction too timid. The boys show their mettle best in Richard Lloyd’s Salisbury service a work they clearly know well. The men support intelligently throughout.