Christmas List 2003: NATIVITY: CHRISTMAS MUSIC FROM GEORGIAN ENGLAND
The Parley of Instruments with Psalmody, directed by Peter Holman
The spirit of Christmas from Georgian provincial England captured on this disc will delight all. Peter Holman's recording of lesser-known Christmas repertoire is a refreshing aside from the usual fare we take for granted at this time of year, though even here we get rare arrangements of some of the more popular associated choral works; Joy to the world, Christians, awake the happy morn, Angels from the realms of glory and O come, all ye faithful.
The influence of Handel pervades many of the works on the programme; John Hill of Rugby's anthem The people that walked in darkness is perhaps the most obvious, but John Fawcett of Bolton's Strike! Seraphs, strike your harps of gold, though written as late as 1840, relies much on Handelian and Haydnesque compositional styling, indicating how the influence of these composers in the backwaters of England were not spent, and probably contributed to their continued, and continuing, popularity in the great English choral society tradition where conservatism is a sharply felt characteristic.
The singers Psalmody bring a wonderfully atmospheric aura to these choral treats, their individual voices are not overly refined and really encourage the temperament of the provincial church choir, the instrumental combinations and timbres of clarinets, horns, trumpets, bassoon, strings, timpani and a wonderful little organ built in 1789 by Hugh Russell of London and restored by Martin Renshaw, only emphasise the spirit of the age the works were written and performed in. This disc is a real and rare treat for those more curious about the origins of our Christmas musical heritage and will bring joy to many a listener.
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