On Christmas Night

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ON CHRISTMAS NIGHT - Choir of St John's College, Cambridge - Andrew Nethsingha (Conductor) - John Challenger (Organ) - Hybrid SACD - 095115509623 - Released: October 2011 - Chandos CHSA5096

Remember when, as a child, your parents took you to your first Christmas Eve service. You had not been inside the old stone church many times, let alone at night, so the dimly lit interior lent the space a mysterious, other worldly atmosphere. As you were being led up the aisle between the endless rows of long wooden pews, you couldn't see much because the place was packed and everyone there was standing. All you could see was the flicker of candlelight reflecting off the high ceiling, creating faintly creepy shadows behind the plaster statuettes lining the walls of the church, and you could smell that strange combination of incense and old perfume that permeates every church on Christmas Eve. But on the other hand, what you could hear, was magical. Angelic voices of choristers bolstered by a pipe organ, reverberating all around the edifice, but seemingly emanating from nowhere, because you couldn't see the choir up in the organ loft behind you. A sound that seemed to transcend space and time, and fill the air with echoes of a distant past.

Within seconds into this new CD by the Choir of St John's College, those distant but special memories should come rushing back because this Chandos surround-sound recording has managed to capture precisely the sound described above. A warm, natural sound that effortlessly reproduces the wide open space within which it was captured. Add to this the many congregational hymns, traditional carols and original works by modern composers collected together on this disc, and there's plenty here to please anyone's musical tastes.

  • What sweeter music - John Rutter
  • NoŽl nouvelet - French carol (arr. Stephen Jackson)
  • Balulalow - James Burton
  • A babe is born - William Mathias
  • In the bleak mid-winter - Harold Darke
  • Ding! dong! merrily on high - French carol (arr. Mack Wilberg)
  • Jesus Christ the apple tree - Elizabeth Poston
  • I saw three ships - English carol (arr. Philip Marshall)
  • Out of your sleep - Sir Richard Rodney Bennett
  • Benedicamus Domino - Peter Warlock
  • There is no rose - John Joubert
  • Tomorrow shall be my dancing day - English carol (arr. David Willcocks)
  • Adam lay ybounden - Matthew Martin
  • Riu, riu, chiu - Matheo Flecha the Elder
  • O little town of Bethlehem - English carol (arr. Ralph Vaughan Williams)
  • Es ist ein Ros' entsprungen - German carol (arr. Michael Praetorius)
  • Make we joy - Christopher Robinson
  • Hark! the herald angels sing - Felix Mendelssohn
  • The lamb - John Tavener
  • Telling - Michael Finnissy
  • Coventry Carol - Kenneth Leighton
  • On Christmas night - English carol (arr. Sir Philip Ledger)
  • Silent night - Franz Xaver Gruber
  • O come, all ye faithful - John Francis Wade

This choir, founded in the 1670s, has been heard by millions of people throughout its many concert tours and over 90 recordings spanning a period of over 50 years. They have established a reputation as one of the finest collegiate choirs in the world, and in this new recording On Christmas Night, have captured the essence of that celebration of peace and hope. Fine support and keen registration by organist John Challenger, and strong musical insights and solid leadership by conductor Andrew Nethsingha, all combine to make this one of the best Christmas music CDs out this year.

Jean-Yves Duperron - November 2011