Christmas Carols from City of London School

0 of 5 stars

Unto Us Is Born A Son (arr. David Willcocks)
Sir Christèmas (William Mathias)
Adam Lay Ybounden (Peter Warlock)
This Is The Truth Sent from Above (Trad. arr. Ralph Vaughan Williams)
People, look East (Words: Eleanor Farjeon; Music: Christopher Steel)
Of the Father’s Heart Begotten (Words: Prudentius; Melody from Piae Cantiones; arr. D. Willcocks)
I Sing of a Maiden (Patrick Hadley)
Sweet was the Song (Grayston Ives)
O Little Town of Bethlehem (Words: Phillips Brooks; arr. Vaughan Williams & Thomas Armstrong)
Dormi Jesu (John Rutter)
Away In A Manger (Tune: W. J. Kirkpatrick, arr. George McPhee)
The Little Road to Bethlehem (Words: Margaret Rose; Music: Michael Head)
Bogoróditse Djévo (Arvo Pärt)
In the bleak mid-winter (Words: Christina Rossetti; Music: Harold Darke)
Carol of the Bells (Words: Peter J. Wilhousky; Music: M. Leontovich)
Mater Ora Filium (Music: Charles Wood; Arr. Harrison Oxley)Sequence from Christus (Felix Mendelssohn)
The Three Kings (Words & music: Peter Cornelius, arr. Ivor Atkins)
O Come All Ye Faithful (Words & melody: J. F. Wade, arr. Willcocks)
Ding! Dong! Merrily on High (Arr. Mack Wilberg)
Hark! The Herald Angels Sing (Words: Charles Wesley; Music: Mendelssohn, arr. D. Willcocks)

Choir of City of London School
Paul Harrison
Stephen Disley (organ)

Recorded 30 June 2010 in the Great Hall of City of London School

Reviewed by: Adrian Perkin

Reviewed: November 2010
Duration: 62 minutes



As I write this in early November the shops are already bursting with Christmas goodies, so this is a timely release of Christmas Carols, recorded using the City of London School’s magnificent-sounding organ.

The disc kicks off with a vibrant account of “Unto Us Is Born A Son”, which combines angelic noises with steadfast resolution; the organ resiliently captured. Some of the carols need no introduction, and their inclusion is all well and good, but those that might not get such frequent hearings are just as pleasurable.

A welcome surprise is “This Is the Truth Sent from Above” (a cappella, arranged by Vaughan Williams), in which one can enjoy Harry Bradford’s clear and heart-felt contribution (he is BBC Radio 2 Young Choristers of the Year 2008) with Freddy Gelati-Meinert’s youthful bass. Bradford is heard later, with treble Philip Morton, in Patrick Hadley’s “I Sing of a Maiden”, a very English carol, almost a folk-song. The partnership of these two singers is captured movingly in “The Little Road to Bethlehem”, with Margaret Rose’s seductive words here finding ideal practitioners. A sequence from Felix Mendelssohn’s unfinished oratorio “Christus”, where the Wise Men view the Star of Bethlehem, has Bradford at his best: flowing legato with unfussy articulation.

Geoffrey Chang sings with confidence with the choir in “The Three Kings”, displaying an uncanny ability to match crystal-clear diction with the piece’s idiom. Another soloist worth a mention is tenor Joel Fisher, who, along with treble David Valsamidis, is heard in Harold Darke’s 1911 version of “In the bleak mid-winter” (more often encountered in Gustav Holst’s 1909 setting). This is given in understated fashion: tranquil, the sense of being kept warm whilst the cold of winter is outside, and asking the eternal question of what can be given to Him.

A particular treat is Arvo Pärt’s “Bogoróditse Djévo” (Rejoice, O virgin Mary), which, in its short time, ably shows what a master of sacred music he is. It is captured in exacting detail here, too, with the trebles soaring beautifully above the lower voices’ foundation. The other settings found here will be familiar from any Carol Service. “Hark! The Herald Angels Sing”, “Ding! Dong! Merrily on High” and “O Come All Ye Faithful” all receive exacting and jubilant treatment, and offer a heartening contrast to what are more contemplative carols, such as Grayston Ives’s “Sweet was the Song”.

This might be a school production but everything about it oozes high quality and dedication. Handsomely presented – the booklet, as well as giving a brief history of the School, contains all the words – this collection of carols old and new will have you singing along as you dip in to this seasonal treat.

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