Magnificat

Director of Music: 
Andrew Nethsingha
Organ Scholar: 
Glen Dempsey
Release date: 
October 2019
Featuring: 
  • Matthew Brown (treble)
  • Lewis Cobb (treble)
  • Alfred Harrison (treble)
  • Daniel Brown (counter tenor)
  • Hugh Cutting (counter tenor)
  • Benedict Flinn (tenor)
  • Gopal Kambo (tenor)
  • James Adams (bass)
  • Matthew Gibson (bass)
  • Simon Grant (bass)
Record label: 
St John's Cambridge/Signum
Catalogue number: 
SIGCD588

In their first ever album dedicated solely to the Evening Canticles (Magnificat and Nunc Dimittis), the Choir of St John’s College, Cambridge releases Magnificat, a celebration of their daily tradition of Evensong.

The album contains six contrasting settings of the Evening Canticles, repertoire that plays an important role in the Choir’s daily music-making. Each of the settings chosen by Director of Music Andrew Nethsingha has personal significance to his musical life – his time at the Royal College of Music, Truro Cathedral, Gloucester Cathedral, and now, St John’s College.

Of the Canticles relating to the College itself, Kenneth Leighton’s Second Service was composed in 1972 in memory of Brian Runnett, a former St John’s College Organ Scholar, who was tragically killed in a car crash driving home from an organ recital. Nethsingha himself commissioned Jackson’s Truro Service, in memory of a former chorister at Truro Cathedral. Former Director of Music at St John’s College, Dr George Guest, commissioned Tippett’s St John’s Service to celebrate the 450th anniversary of the College in 1961.

This album explores the breadth of imagination with which composers have approached these enduring texts, which have been said or sung at daily acts of Christian worship for over a thousand years. Stanford took his compositional starting point from the Germanic symphonic tradition; Howells took his inspiration from the architecture and acoustics of the Cathedral in Gloucester; Tippett was inspired by the unique Spanish trumpet stop on the organ at St John’s College.

Andrew Nethsingha, Director of Music, said:

"This disc was recorded at a time when we had an especially fine group of singers. I think it is one of my two best recordings so far!

I am fascinated by the way in which the same texts can provoke profoundly different responses from composers. All six pieces are works which the singers have lived with for many years – and for many decades in my case! It is music with which we feel a deep emotional connection. I am excited to share this very fine repertoire with the wider musical world!"

Track list
  1. Magnificat in A (Charles Villiers Stanford)
  2. Nunc Dimittis in A (Charles Villiers Stanford)
  3. Magnificat 'Second Service' (Kenneth Leighton)
  4. Nunc Dimittis 'Second Service' (Kenneth Leighton)
  5. Magnificat in A (Herbert Sumsion)
  6. Nunc Dimittis in A (Herbert Sumsion)
  7. Magnificat 'Gloucester Service' (Herbert Howells)
  8. Nunc Dimittis 'Gloucester Service' (Herbert Howells)
  9. Magnificat 'Truro Service' (Gabriel Jackson)
  10. Nunc Dimittis 'Truro Service' (Gabriel Jackson)
  11. Magnificat 'Collegium Sancti Johannis Cantabrigiense' (Sir Michael Tippett)
  12. Nunc Dimittis 'Collegium Sancti Johannis Cantabrigiense' (Sir Michael Tippett)
We also hear a choir that sings with extreme perception of blend (vowel and timbre), words and phrasing; a true ensemble that understands how a legato might be intensified or slackened, how a colour can be shaded and twisted and how to react to an organ however it’s throttled
I think this is one of the most extraordinary discs I've heard in a very long time
★★★★★ Nethsingha and his St John’s forces lead us through a fascinating hour’s music, not least for recognising how different each composer’s response to the same text can be
In short, utterly praiseworthy

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Latest webcast

Recorded on
10 November 2019

This week's webcast is the Eucharist held in memory of the fallen of both World Wars and all subsequent conflicts. The Choir sings Duruflé's masterful and moving setting of the Requiem featuring the treatment and weaving-in of traditional plainsong themes amongst his characteristic harmony.

Latest news

Magnificat_Choir_of_St_John's_College_Cambridge

The Choir's new album, Magnificat, is now available to buy, download and stream. Celebrating the Evening Canticles that play a significant part in the Choir's Evensong services, it is an Editor's Choice Pick from Gramophone magazine.

Choral singing comes no better

Fiona Maddocks, The Observer