Music On Christmas Morning — A Fresh Mix

The subtitle for this release is “A Festive mix of fresh and favourite carols.” And it is that. As the spelling suggests, this a British choral program. And one that delivers on the promise.

The favorite carols include Herbert Howells’ “A Spotless Rose.” There are also arrangements of “Nova, Nova,” Ding Dong! Merrily on High,” and the Sussex Carol. And contemporary British choral composers are also well-representing.

John Rutter has three selections on the release. Bob Chilcott has two. Roxanna Panufnik’s gorgeous version of “Sleep, Jesus, Sleep” is also included.

Just the mix of these shorter carols would make this a superior collection. But there’s more. The release begins with Gerald Finzi’s “In Terra Pax.” Finzi’s inspiration for the work was his memory of a Christmas Eve. He was standing on a hill as the snow fell, hearing the church bells ring out in the distance.

The work captures the introspective nature of the scene beautifully. And the musicians perform with sensitivity and expression. Baritone Roderick Williams sings with a clear, warm tone. The smooth vocal blend of the Vasari Singers provides the perfect counterpoint.

The Vasari Singers have a traditional British choral sound. The ensemble has 19 sopranos, and only nine each of altos, tenors, and basses. The sopranos provide a high-register sound that sounds both bright and warm.

This is not your typical Lessons and Carols British choral album. The subtitle is correct. There may be some favorite carols here, but to me, it all sounds pretty fresh. This one will be in heavy rotation at the Graves’ house this season.

Music on Christmas Morning
Chilcott, Farrington, Finzi, Howells, Llewellyn, Paish, Peacock, Rutter
Roderick Williams, baritone; Martin Ford, organ
Vasari Singers; Jeremy Backhouse director

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