“The Gate of Glory: Music from The Eton Choirbook Vol. 5”
Hugo Kellyk: Gaude flore virginali a 7
John Browne: O regina mundi clara a 6
Robert Fayrfax: Magnificat ‘Regali’ a 5
Walter Lambe (after Michaelmas): Gaude flore virginali a 4
Robert Hacomplaynt: Salve regina a 5
The Choir of Christ Church Cathedral, Oxford, Sanuda Kariyawasam (chorister soloist), Michael Ash (alto soloist), William Anderson, William Balkwill, Tom Robson, Edward Woodhouse (tenor soloists), William Gaunt, Henry Hawkesworth, Michael Hickman, David Le Prevost, William Pate (bass soloists), Stephen Darlington (Director of Music)
Recording: Chapel of Merton College, Oxford (July 4-6, 2017) – 79’26
Avie Records AV2376 (Distributed by Naxos of America) – Booklet in English, German and French
Since joining Oxford’s Christ Church Cathedral Choir back in 1985, Dr. Stephen Darlington has touched many listeners’ hearts through purity of the male voice. The Eton Choirbook, a sacred compendium containing one passion, Magnificats and motets, is the inspirational font that Maestro Darlington has drawn upon to record four earlier albums including the “Courts of Heaven”. Yet “The Gate of Glory” taps into a mélange of styles, giving the album more of a broad edge to this wondrous liturgical music.
Time, as an element, entrées change when it comes to the human voice. Because four years have elapsed between recordings of Volume III and Volume V, this seasons the youth, bringing about inevitable changes to the box. “The Gate of Glory’s” constant denominator is buried inside bass/baritone membership along with the conductor. The mixture of these two vastly differing a cappella dynamics nicely adds variety yet embellishes the vocal status quo. Diversity plays an integral part in this collection with the only common thread to surface (alongside Volume III) which is the pre-eminence of John Browne.
Known for his unorthodox use of groupings, John Browne’s O regina mundi clara is scored for six voices: three tenors, two baritones and one bass. Stephen Darlington’s principals aptly demonstrate use of well-appointed harmony and counterpoint: the blending opens the gateway to celestial radiance with stately softness. Furthermore, Browne’s manuscript shows us [his] use of the dramatic expression by utilizing only a handful of singers to signify the magnificence surrounding the chapel of Saint Maria Scala Coeli, a stone’s throw way from Rome.
Simplicity holds an undeniable truth, as evidenced inside Robert Fayrfax’s Magnificat ‘Regali’. Seldom do we find compositions favoring baritone and bass parts; therefore, one’s ears hold fascination to the notes. Steeped in plainsong, the Gregorian chant-like diction epitomizes puritanical innocence that washes away any hint of adulteration.
Walter Lambe’s Gaude flore virginali is presented in this World Premiere Recording and gathers stronger choral combinations with heavier ecclesiastical builds. This four-part cantus firmus gathers bold formations that includes a closing of rather unusual, oblique resolve. Overall, the piece shrouds itself with alluring, mysterious dimension.
Avie Records never ceases to deliver first rate recordings. We have the privilege of getting further acquainted with this celestial music.