Recorded in the Lady Chapel of Ely Cathedral, the Cambridge Singers under the direction of John Rutter produced a duo of discs dedicated to Music of the English Church previously issued as two separate discs, 'Hail, Gladdening Light', and its companion piece, 'Faire is the Heaven'. The discs here are straight copies of those discs; hence, if you have those already, there is no need to purchase this - on the other hand, if you do not have the other discs, this is a bargain.
This is all unaccompanied music, sung in a cathedral chapel acoustically suited for such music. The first disc has four primary sections: Music of the Latin Rite; Music of the Reformation; Music of the Restoration; and Anglican Revival and the twentieth century. The most famous composers in English music history -- Tallis, Byrd, Gibbons -- combine with later masters such as Purcell, Stanford, Howells, Walton, Britten and Vaughan Williams to form a truly masterful collection. These are anthems, hymns and other liturgical pieces that have remained important in Anglican worship, and can be often heard in situ on Sundays around the world. However, the Cambridge Singers bring their special music talent to the task, producing a good standard bearer for music of the English Church.
On the second disc, there are six Latin motets, set by composers such as Taverner, Howells, Stanford, Vaughan Williams, Philips and Dering. Anthens and Introits include notables Tomkins and Purcell, and lesser-known composers such as Amner, Bairstow and Goss. Hymns span the range from old to modern, including a hymn by John Rutter himself. The disc ends with three prayer settings, including one by the underappreciated John Sheppard, and another from William Harris, whose hymn serves as the title to the companion disc. These anthems and hymns show a powerful range of music, yet show a consistent tone also that makes it rather distinctive of the music of the English church.
The group's power and grace is second to none, particularly when singing this kind of music in a place such as Ely Cathedral, arguably the most natural of settings possible.
The notes for this recording include the titles and words of each anthem or hymn. The notes for each piece also includes brief biographical information of the composer, and unique information about each work, when particular composers are represented more than once. One thing conspicuously missing is much biographical information about John Rutter, or any descriptive information about the Cambridge Singers apart from the most basic of information.
Rutter was born in London and educated at Clare College, Cambridge. This was where his career as a composer, arranger and conductor began. His early work was with groups at King's College Chapel at Cambridge as well as the Bath Choir and Philharmonic Orchestra. He has worked for the BBC providing music for educational series such as 'The Archaeology of the Bible Lands', until in 1979 he began forming the Cambridge Singers, and has continued a remarkable career of performance and recording as their director ever since.
--The Cambridge Singers--
The Cambridge Singers are a mixed choir of voices, many of whom were members of choir of Rutter's college, Clare College, Cambridge. While they specialise in English and Latin liturgical pieces, they have a wide range of recordings that span from modern compositions (including a remarkable requiem by Rutter) to English folk songs of the Middle Ages. Many are former members of the choir of Clare College and other Cambridge collegiate choirs (hence the name, Cambridge Singers). In the quarter-century since the founding, the Cambridge Singers have produced an impressive body of recordings.