Christmas Presence – The King’s Singers

0 of 5 stars

King’s Singers Christmas

1. Veni, veni Emmanuel (Trad. arr. Lawson)
2. Angelus ad Virginem (Trad. ed. the King’s Singers)
3. This is the truth sent from above (Trad. arr. Ralph Vaughan Williams)
4. Wie schön leuchtet der Morgenstern (Praetorius)
5. Es ist ein Ros’ entsprungen (Praetorius)
6. There is no rose (Anon. ed. Stevens)
7. Coventry Carol (Anon.)
8. Nowell sing we now (Bo Holten ed. the KS)
9. Remember, O thou man (Ravenscroft)
10. In dulci jubilo (Trad. harmonised. J.S Bach)
11. Lullay my liking (Philip Lawson)
12. Bogoroditsye Dyevo (Arvo Pärt)
13. The Lamb (John Tavener)
14. Maria durch ein’ Dornwald ging (Trad. arr. Lawson)
15. O little one sweet (Trad. harm. J.S Bach)
16. Bethlehem Down (Peter Warlock)
17. The Crown of Roses (Tchaikovsky arr. Lubbock)
18. To us in Bethlem City (John McCabe)
19. Szczo to za prediwo (Trad. arr. Barwinski)
20. There is a flower (John Rutter)
21. La Peregrinaçion (Ramirez arr. Knight)
22. Away in a manger (Melody W.J Kirkpatrick arr. Lawson)
23. Noël nouvelet (Trad. arr. Lawson)
24. Stille Nacht (Gruber arr. Rutter)
25. Born on a New Day (David arr. Knight/Lawson)

King’s Singers:

David Hurley & Robin Tyson (countertenors)
Paul Phoenix (tenor)
Philip Lawson & Gabriel Crouch (baritone)
Stephen Connolly (bass)

Recorded 26-29 May 2003 in St Michael’s Church, Highgate, London

Reviewed by: Nick Breckenfield

Reviewed: December 2003

In the run up to yet another commercialised Christmas, it is heartening to be able to unwrap a little bit of heaven in the shape of the first recording by the King’s Singers for three years. With Signum Records they have come up with a personal choice for a Christmas disc and have eschewed the normal Christmas Carol and/or popular Christmas song selection, opting rather for 24 carols from over five centuries encompassing seven languages (English, Latin, German, French, Russian, Polish and Spanish) and a couple of continents (Argentina represents South America in Ramirez’s La Peregrinaçion), while another focus is the rich heritage of British carols of the 20th-century, with works, or arrangements by McCabe, Tavener, Vaughan Williams and Warlock, as well as adaptations by the vocal ensemble’s own Philip Lawson.

The 24 is determined by the days of advent, but the final track is a Christmas Day bonus, a new version of the King’s Singers quasi-signature tune, You are the New Day, here with subtle string quartet accompaniment and re-christened Born on a New Day. From Coventry Carol to Tavener’s The Lamb and Pärt’s Bogoroditsye Dyevo this is an impressive seasonal treat, which will melt the heart of the most humbugging of Scrooges.

For the disc, the King’s Singers – who celebrated their 35th-anniversary this year – eschewed the purpose-built studios and multi-microphones of their previous discs and were taped, in a typical satisfying and faultless recording by Floating Earth, in the warm, resonant acoustic of St Michael’s Church Highgate with just a pair of stereo microphones. The results are of demonstration quality, clear and natural, just like the ever-reliable and still world-beating King’s Singers themselves.

It seems invidious to highlight any particular track.Here are 25 gems that would work supremely well in any order (at last a non-crossover CD that works with the random selection of your CD player!). Most of it is entirely subtle, rarely lifting to fortissimo, with the added result that you find yourself leaning forwards to listen more closely. Almost all selections are rapt, although there are some more jubilant carols, such as the drum-accompanied Angelus ad Virginem, but it is an overriding contemplative tone that instils the listener with a sense of calmness through which the true nature of the Christmas celebration can be better appreciated.

The ideal stocking-filler, this is a treat for Christmas-lovers and vocal-lovers alike. I suspect it is already a Christmas classic, and there will be more than just me enjoying this disc out of season.

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