On Christmas Night / Choir Of Magdalen College
Label: OPUS ARTE
Hyde, Daniel; Dixon, Tom; Lawrie, Maximilian; Lapwood, Anna; Castella-McDonald, Benjamin; Barrie, Caspar; Dugdale, Rupert; Lello, Sebastian; Magdalen College Choir, Oxford; Williams, Roderick; Fox, William; Berry, Alexander; Gant, Harry
The acclaimed Magdalen College Choir celebrates the diversity of the twentieth-century English carol repertoire in a programme that combines well-loved standards and innovative choir favorites ranging in emotion from quiet contemplation to festive joy. The selection of carols and organ solos, led by director and organist Daniel Hyde, culminates in Ralph Vaughan Williams’s celebrated Fantasia on Christmas Carols with renowned baritone Roderick Williams in the solo part. Several carols focus on the sheer joy of the miraculous Incarnation itself. William Mathias’s A babe is born is a lively setting which gives full rein to the composer’s syncopated, jazzy parallelisms. Optimism is also the principal mode of Christopher Steel’s People look east. In its ebullient joy, the piece bounces off into a different key in the third verse and deploys the voices in canon, before swinging back to a final recapitulation, replete with a jubilant descant. Composers for organ have found themselves drawn to this treasury of festive folksongs. The French organist and teacher Marcel Dupre was requested by his daughter Marguerite to write a setting of the carol Il est ne le divin enfant. The resulting piece is a set of variations on the theme, with the rune variously in the pedals, decorated, and finally worked into a masterly fugue. In similar fashion, Herbert Sumsion transformed a number of carols into preludes for the instrument. Among them was The holly and the ivy which plucks little motifs from its source before gradually introducing the tune itself, building up to a grand statement before subsiding into quiet peace.