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Thursday, December 23, 2010

English Choirmasters select their favorite and least favorite carols

 From an article in the Telegraph:

Matthew Owens
Organist & Master of the Choristers, Wells Cathedral
Favourite: Wellcome All Wonders in One Sight! A beautiful setting by contemporary composer Jonathan Dove of words written by the metaphysical poet Richard Crashaw (1612-49)
Least Favourite: There are none of which I would say “never again”, although I am not overly fond of While Shepherds Watched their Flocks by Night.
Neglected: Bethlehem Down offers some of the best theology (Bruce Blunt) and music (Peter Warlock) in the repertoire.
James Lancelot
Master of the Choristers and Organist, Durham Cathedral
Favourite: See Amid the Winter’s Snow (words by Edward Caswall, music by John Goss) has a gentle holiness and humanity that stand the test of time, combining a contemplative narrative with outbursts of joy.
Least Favourite: I certainly wouldn’t want to dispense with Away in a Manger, which has childhood memories for so many of us. But it is in danger of becoming hackneyed, and it would be lovely to hear it sung occasionally to an alternative tune. There is a delightful Normandy melody for it, which makes a refreshing change, even if it will never catch on as standard.
Neglected: Andrew Carter’s Mary’s Magnificat. Carter, who was 70 last year, has been a rich but unassuming contributor to the English choral repertoire. This peaceful lullaby setting combines words by the composer himself with those of the Magnificat from St Luke’s Gospel.
Aric Prentice
Director of Music, Lincoln Cathedral
Favourite: John Rutter’s What Sweeter Music. Lovely poem by Robert Herrick, with a lilting singable tune and piquant harmonies. It captures the spirit of Christmas and is just right for the carol service on Christmas Eve with a congregation of 2,500 in the freezing cold.
Least Favourite: The First Nowell. Far too much use of a D major scale and too repetitive.
Neglected: Herbert Howells’s Long, Long Ago. It has some tricky moments, especially being a cappella, but the final “Christ was born in Bethlehem to heal the world’s woe” is sublime.
Andrew Lumsden
Director of Music, Winchester Cathedral
Favourite: John Gardner’s Tomorrow Shall Be My Dancing Day. It’s just such fun and never fails to put a smile on audience and performer alike.
Least favourite: The First Nowell. Six verses of what is basically one line of music repeated three times in each verse is enough for anyone.
Neglected: Wither’s Rocking Hymn. The beautiful words by George Wither are set to a lilting tune by Ralph Vaughan Williams, with a haunting refrain, and it works beautifully as a cradle song. The downside is that there are officially 12 verses.
Adrian Partington
Director of Music, Gloucester Cathedral
Favourite: Jan Sweelinck’s Hodie Christus Natus Est.
Least Favourite: John Tavener’s The Lamb.
Neglected: John Joubert’s Of a Rose, a Lovely Rose.
David Flood
Master of the Choristers and Organist, Canterbury Cathedral

Favourite: In the Bleak Midwinter, to the setting by Sir Henry Walford Davies.
Least Favourite: There aren’t really any carols that I wouldn’t want to hear again. We have to enjoy them to help others enjoy them!
Neglected: The Tyrolean carol, Falan-Tidings (Out of the Orient Crystal Skies).
Stephen Darlington
Organist, Christ Church Cathedral, Oxford
Favourite: John Gardner’s Tomorrow Shall Be My Dancing Day.
Least Favourite: John Joubert’s Torches.
Neglected: Little Star of Bethlehem by Charles Ives. Both words and music are by the composer. It’s compelling and poignant in its simplicity and directness, moving but not over-sentimental.
David Lowe
Master of the Music, Norwich Cathedral
Favourite: Gustav Holst’s version of` Tomorrow Shall Be My Dancing Day always makes the hairs on the back of my neck stick up.
Least Favourite: The First Nowell drags on and on, and is so tiring to sing that I would happily never hear it again.
Neglected: Peter Warlock’s Cornish Christmas Carol is well worth a try – even in the original Cornish.

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