||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.
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