A Choral Christmas

This, along with Lisa Davidsen's Christmas from Norway. also on Decca, would make ideal presents!

A Choral Christmas

VOCES8 sets the bar high again

We have met VOES8 before - one of the first choirs around the UK, headed by Barnaby and Paul Smith in 2005. Barnaby it is who conducts this new album when expanded (orchestral) forces are involved (provided by VOCES8 Foundation Choir and Orchestra). Regular readers of Classical Explorer might remember a post on their release, After Silence.

With the added musicians at their disposal, this programme becomes massively varied. It is a lovely combination footed very familiar and some nice surprises. Certainly, Joy to the World sets the stall for blazingly bright celebration - matched only a few tracks away by a stirring O Come, All Ye Faithful (just listen to those descants!). But here's Joy:

The arrangement is by Taylor Scott Davis, a master of almost cinematic orchestration. How great the contrast to Away in a Manger (another Scott Davis), which uses pastoral woodwind to great effect, teh harmonies carefully calibrated to add a bit of Christmas spice to the original without upsetting our sensibilities. And don't miss out on the extended orchestral passage. Lovely to see Jack Liebeck as violin soloist:

I did mention repertoire that might be less familiar, and here is one that was to me (although I see on YouTube this track has had over 2.4K hits at the tie of writing): The Sleeping Child by Bob Chilcott, a moment of wonderful, purest stillness. Here is VOCES8 in this lovely piece at their 'home' at the VOCES8 Centre in London:

Interestingly, we have a whole Magnificat by Taylor Scott Davis. It is rousing and cozily warm by turns, with lovely deft interactions between choir (VOCES8 Foundation Choir) and the members of teh VOCES8 Foundation Choir. Here' the first movement:

Just to say, it is worth listening to. Why do I say this? Because the previous tracks were getting around two and a half thousand views - and this one had four (it now has five, me). This is easy listening, for sure, but it is war Christmas music, expertly crafted. The texts are mainly in Latin, except for the second movement, “Shall I Rejoice,” to a text by Dr Terry York (the full first line is, “Shall I rejoice for Christ in me”). Andrea Haines is the superb, pure-voiced soprano soloist:

Thomas Gould is the superb violin soloist in the almost Minimalist opening to “Et misericordia”. This feels like the finest movement of Scott Davis' Magnificat:

After a Deposuit," there is a rather nice "Gloria Patri" movement, gentle and perfectly controlled rom the singers:

Four Christmas carols follow. nicely contrasted, ending with the Basque carol of Gabriel's Message. The Scott Davis arrangement of O Come, O Come Emmanuel will surprise many in his harmonic adventures. Of the remainder, it is the unaccompanied choral perfection of of In dulci Jubilo (translated and arranged by Robert Lucas de Pearsall and edited by Reginald Jacques) that is the closest this disc gets to Christmas perfection:

I love the ay the poignant cries of 'Gloria" at the end of Gabriel's Message nestle next to the Yuletide extravaganza that is Hewitt Jones' A Christmas Cracker:

Finally, Leroy Anderson's amazing Sleigh Ride, a piece everyone who has her played in a youth orchestra will doubtless be familiar with. The VOCES8 Foundation Orchestra is on top-flight, nimble-toed form:

This, along with Lisa Davidsen's Christmas from Norway. also on Decca, would make ideal presents!