Choir releases 'Advent Live'
Posted on: 18 October 2018
The disc includes a selection of live recordings from four of our Advent Carol services, which are broadcast every year by BBC Radio 3 since 1981. Included in this recording are many familiar favourites, as well as recent compositions written for the Choir (there has been an annual Advent commission since 2008). It also features words and music composed and arranged by members of St John's College, including former choral student James Burton, former organ students Stephen Cleobury and Ian Shaw, current fellow Tim Watts, and William Wordsworth, who matriculated from St John's in 1787.
It was a pleasure for the Choir to be joined in performance by Johnian violinists Stephanie Childress and Julia Hwang (whose debut album Subito is also on the 'St John's Cambridge' label) as well as harpist Ann Denholm, who recorded Janáček's Otčenáš with us for our album Kyrie. The organ scholars who were playing for the services were Glen Dempsey and Joseph Wicks.
The Advent Carol Services are a very important part of the Choir's year, and this album provides a unique insight into this experience. As our Director of Music Andrew Nethsingha writes in his introduction to the disc, "A particular frisson comes from having members of the congregation surrounding the choir, less than a metre away on all four sides, whilst the service is broadcast live around the world... In the 2016 service I remember finding that a distinguished former choir-member, Iestyn Davies, was sitting right opposite one of his current successors, Hugh Cutting, as Hugh was singing the big Gibbons solo heard here. You don't get that kind of adrenaline in a recording session!"
The album artwork features an apple which – as is referenced in the medieval carol Adam lay ybounden that features on this disc – is often used as the depiction of the forbidden fruit eaten by Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden. However, when Christ is depicted with an apple, it is intended to allude to him being the second Adam who would bring redemption for our sins. When the apple is cut horizontally through the middle as on the album cover, the pips form a shape reminiscent to that of a star: an allusion to the star of Bethlehem that will herald the coming of Christ.