Ash Wednesday available now

Posted on: 21 February 2020

Ash Wednesday is the first album on the 'St John's Cambridge' label to present a live service broadcast in its entirety. The album features our 2019 Ash Wednesday Evensong, in which we performed the Preces and Responses and Ne irascaris by Byrd, Thomas Weelkes' The Short Service, J.S. Bach's Organ Prelude in E Minor BVW 548i, and Gregorio Allegri's Miserere Mei, Deus. This music is interspersed with the spoken elements of Evensong, including the two 'Lessons' from the Old and New Testaments of the Bible.

Evensong on Ash Wednesday marks the penitential season of Lent. The service is a highlight of the Choir's year, and it has been broadcast regularly by the BBC since 1972.

Freddie – the chorister who performs the top Cs in the Allegri – has been interviewed by Classic FM about his experience. He hadn't expected to perform all of the solos, as Andrew remarks in his reflections in the CD booklet: "I had trained up two boys who could sing the high solo pretty perfectly - my plan was to alternate them during the five top Cs, thus reducing the pressure on each boy... On the morning of Ash Wednesday I received a text message to say that one of these soloists was ill - and a couple of hours later he went home. The remaining boy, 13-year-old Freddie, sailed through the solos with extraordinary composure and artistry, with half a million people listening. If there's a more challenging vocal solo for a singer of any age, then I'd like to know what it is!"

Andrew Mellor praised the album in Gramophone: "The malleable, sensitive trebles have what seems to me an unparalleled ability to invest text and phrase with meaning." Jeremy Summerly commended it as "the most glorious music-making" on BBC Radio 3's Record Review.

"There's no funny business – no welcome, no introit, no hymn – and the organ doesn't sound until the voluntary: an embracing, solemn account of Bach's Prelude in E minor, BWV 548."

The Organ Scholar performing on this album is James Anderson-Besant, who has also written the programme notes for this album.

Hear a clip from our rehearsal for this year's rehearsal of the Allegri below:

It's the most glorious music-making

Jeremy Summerly BBC Radio 3 Record Review

★★★★★ This CD captures perfectly the special atmosphere... it's as if the live occasion spurs them on to even greater heights

Choir & Organ

The malleable, sensitive trebles have what seems to me an unparalleled ability to invest text and phrase with meaning

Andrew Mellor Gramophone

★★★★★ A combination of fervancy and clarity that is always impressive and uniquely well suited to this particular project

James Manheim AllMusic

Above all, the 'Miserere mei, Deus' by Allegri and Byrd's overwhelming motet 'Ne Irascaris, Domine' get under the skin, as indeed does Johann Sebastian Bach's 'Prelude in E minor', heard at the end


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Recorded on
15 March 2022
  • Responses and Preces: Radcliffe
  • Psalm 18 vv. 1-6 (tone i)
  • Readings: Ezekiel 36.22-27, Acts 19.1-10
  • Howells (Collegium Regale)
  • Elgar: Give unto the Lord
  • Voluntary: Bach  Prelude in C minor
Nethsingha is his own man and absolutely his own musician, which is why his choir continues to evolve and lead

Andrew Mellor, Gramophone