The Psalms

The Psalms

The Psalms
Director of Music: 
Andrew Nethsingha
Organ Scholar: 
James Anderson-BesantGlen DempseyGeorge Herbert
Release date: 
September 2022
Record label: 
Signum
Catalogue number: 
SIGCD721
Awards: 
Editor's Choice
Gramophone
November 2022

A collection of the Psalms set to Anglican chant, an integral element of services sung by the choir. The release of the album coincides with Andrew Nethsingha's 15th anniversary as Director of Music.

Andrew says of the album: "Psalm-singing, one of the most subtle forms of choral singing, is at the heart of the St John’s choir’s musical identity. The psalms inform everything else we perform - technically, musically, emotionally. In 1977 George Guest made a deeply moving Argo LP ‘Psalms of Consolation and Hope’, one of my favourite choral albums. All George's successors - Christopher Robinson, David Hill and myself - have sought to continue the distinctive St John’s style of psalm-singing. The chemistry which each choir-director has with their singers is unique. I have written extensively about my own thoughts on psalm-singing, and on the beauty of the words and music, in the booklet notes; I hope these notes will enhance the listener’s enjoyment and involvement in the album. The Psalms affect listeners in different ways. They can be profound and transformational not only for Christians; some psalms can be entrancing and healing.”

Exploring settings of psalms from the eighteenth century through to the twentieth by composers steeped in the English choral tradition, the repertoire on this recording has been chosen and ordered carefully in terms of contrast and key relationships. Featuring psalm chants from composers such as Percy Whitlock, Henry Walford Davies and Thomas Attwood, the album also features music from a former Director of Music at St John’s, Christopher Robinson, with his settings of Psalm 2 (Why do the heathen so furiously rage) and Psalm 148 (O Praise the Lord of Heaven).

This release also marks the latest in a series of recordings that celebrates the music performed in Evensong, with previous releases Eastertide Evensong and Ash Wednesday focusing on live recordings of their Evensong services. Both releases were critically acclaimed, with their Ash Wednesday recording dubbed as “glistening and ethereal throughout” (BBC Music Magazine).

Track list

  1. 18 ‘I will love thee, O Lord’ (vv. 1-19)
  2. 99 ‘The Lord is King’
  3. 85 ‘Lord, thou art become gracious’
  4. 76 ‘In Jewry is God known’
  5. 52 ‘Why boastest thou thyself, thou tyrant’
  6. 88 ‘O Lord God of my salvation’
  7. 29 ‘Bring unto the Lord, O ye mighty’
  8. 2 ‘Why do the heathen so furiously rage’
  9. 139 ‘O Lord, thou hast searched me out’ (omit vv. 19-22)
  10. 148 ‘O praise the Lord of heaven’
  11. 121 ‘I will lift up mine eyes unto the hills’
  12. 122 ‘I was glad when they said unto me’
  13. 123 ‘Unto thee lift I up mine eyes’

Booklet

Reviews

Nethsingha knows what he wants from choir, microphones – and organist: there are no dramatic contrasts or solo-stop gimmicks here, just that air-cushion of sound and the St John’s speciality of coupling changes in chant together via the celestial thread of a single organ note.

Andrew Mellor, Gramophone

★★★★★ Beauty of sound is to the fore in liquid, blended voices flowing seamlessly in and around each other, in clarity of diction and exquisitely modulated delivery

Michael Quinn, Choir & Organ

Nethsingha treats each psalm as a mini tone-poem of vocal affects, each line inflected in distinctive ways to elicit meaning and emotion from the biblical text

Terry Blain, BBC Music Magazine

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9 March 2024

 

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