Pious Anthems & Voluntaries

Pious Anthems & Voluntaries

Pious Anthems & Voluntaries
Director of Music: 
Andrew Nethsingha
Organ Scholar: 
Glen DempseyJames Anderson-Besant
Release date: 
August 2020
  • Sarah O'Flynn (flute)
  • Cecily Ward (violin)
  • Alfred Harrison, Harry L'Estrange, Philip Tomkinson (treble)
  • Hugh Cutting (counter tenor)
  • Gopal Kambo (tenor)
  • James Adams, Oliver Morris (bass)
Record label: 
St John's Cambridge/Signum
Catalogue number: 
Editor's Choice
September 2020
Choral & Song Choice
BBC Music Magazine
October 2020
Choral Nominee
Ivors Composer Awards
November 2020
Top Ten Recording of the Year
December 2020
Gramophone Awards Finalist (Contemporary)
September 2021

Pious Anthems & Voluntaries features a new nine-part cycle, inspired by the architecture of the College and its Chapel, and composed by Michael Finnissy, St John's Composer in Residence 2016-19.

Michael Finnissy's first work for the Choir, John the Baptist, was commissioned for the 2014 Advent Carol Service, and went on to win the British Composer Award for Liturgical Music (now known as the Ivors Awards). The piece was later recorded for the album Christmas with St John'sIn November 2020, Pious Anthems & Voluntaries was also nominated for an Ivors Composer Award.

When Andrew Nethsingha approached Finnissy to be the College's Composer in Residence 2016, the initial proposition was to create a new set of works based on motets from the early sixteenth century. What followed was an evolution of the project into something much more far-reaching, taking inspiration from works spanning from John Taverner to Michael Tippett. All of the source works have a special significance for the Choir, and the selection of pieces that span the centuries mirrors the architectural layering present in the development of St John's College.

Finnissy said of the project:

"I do not feel this breadth of vision or enthusiasm to be at all incompatible with the Victorian Gothic Revival, and hence the chapel I am supposed to celebrate. I might have a greater fondness for William Morris than for the personalities of the Oxford Movement, but their collective responses to the dark times in which they lived continue to resonate in the England of 2015-19."

The cycle was written over a three year period, and the premiere of the collection as a whole took place in June 2019 to celebrate the 150th Anniversary of St John's College Chapel.

Andrew Nethsingha writes:

“This is extremely beautiful music - rich, deep, full of colours, emotions and allusions. The music requires time to marinade in the listener’s mind. It has been fascinating to observe the cycle’s evolution, to develop a deep relationship with one composer and to gain an insight into his compositional processes. We are privileged to have had Michael as the College’s Composer in Residence for the past three years."

Track list

  1. Dum transisset Sabbatum
  2. Dum transisset Sabbatum – double
  3. Videte miraculum
  4. Videte miraculum – double
  5. Commentary on ‘Wie schön leuchtet der Morgenstern’
  6. 'Herr Christ, der einge Gottessohn’: I. Herr Christ, der einge Gottessohn
  7. 'Herr Christ, der einge Gottessohn’: II. Ach führe mich, o Gott
  8. 'Herr Christ, der einge Gottessohn’: III. Ach, ziehe die Seele
  9. 'Herr Christ, der einge Gottessohn’: IV. O Wunderkraft der Liebe
  10. 'Herr Christ, der einge Gottessohn’: V. Bald zur Rechten
  11. 'Herr Christ, der einge Gottessohn’: VI. Für uns ein Mensch geboren
  12. Commentary on BWV 562
  13. Plebs angelica
  14. Plebs angelica – alternativo


★★★★★ Performance ★★★★★ Recording: Nethsingha and his forces do [Finnissy's music] proud. Indeed one of their greatest achievements is to make the music sound as lived-in as more customary chapel fare such as Byrd or Howells

Choral & Song Choice, BBC Music Magazine

All praise to St John's and their conductor Andrew Nethsingha for commissioning these works, and then recording them for posterity with such skill and devotion

Editor's Choice, Gramophone

This is some of the most compelling music written for the ‘English choral tradition’ in many years, and as a cycle it’s a hugely important addition to the repertoire. It deserves to be heard (and reheard) by as wide an audience as possible. The results are infinitely rewarding, and a review like this can barely scratch the surface of this achievement
★★★★★ Andrew Nethsingha and his forces are fully inside this exquisitely beautiful, sensual music

Choir & Organ

★★★★★ The brilliance of the conception and the performances is that each piece works on its own, but the whole takes us on a remarkable journey. Essential listening
Finnissy's work of genius – my word, not one that I bandy about lightly... is, in fact, magnificent

Colin Clarke, Classical Music Magazine

★★★★★ Nethsingha well knows that in order to push boundaries the musical performance has to be of the highest calibre and this is evident listening to the disc

Donald MacKenzie, Organist's Review

The album is beautifully recorded, and it will reveal a whole new dimension of this composer to those familiar only with this virtuoso piano music and political vocal works

James Manheim, AllMusic

More about this release

'Videte miraculum' Rehearsal 03.02.18 (c) James Beddoe

Rehearsals for the first work of the cycle Videte miraculum in February 2018, with Michael Finnissy listening © James Beddoe

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Latest webcast

Recorded on
19 October 2023
  • Introit - Parsons: Ave Maria
  • Responses and Preces: Radcliffe
  • Psalm 25.1-8
  • Readings: Isaiah 40, 1-11, Luke 1, 57-66, 80
  • Jackson in G
  • MacMillan: Christus Vincit
  • Voluntary: Langlais, Acclamations (Suite Medievale)

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The third installment in our Magnificat series has been shortlisted for the choral award, making it the second album to be nominated for a Gramophone Award

The contribution of Andrew Nethsingha and St John's College, Cambridge to the Evensong tradition - both in the chapel and on record - deserves great praise