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Track(s) taken from CDA67641

Morning Canticles

1967; composed for the centenary thanksgiving service of Monkton Combe School, St Paul's Cathedral, London, 8 May 1968
author of text
Venite: Psalm 95: 1-8, Revised Psalter; Te Deum: Book of Common Prayer; Jubilate: Psalm 100, BCP

Wells Cathedral Choir, Matthew Owens (conductor), David Bednall (organ)
Recording details: June 2007
Wells Cathedral, United Kingdom
Produced by Mark Brown
Engineered by Julian Millard
Release date: May 2008
Total duration: 14 minutes 48 seconds

Cover artwork: The Guardian (c1930) by Arild Rosenkrantz (1870-1964)
Courtesy of Peter Nahum at The Leicester Galleries, London / © Bente Arendrup, Denmark


'The more I hear of Wells Cathedral Choir the more impressed I am. Matthew Owens has certainly brought these choristers to the very peak of excellence; it ranks as probably the finest English cathedral choir at the moment … the two large-scale works are delivered with great power and breadth, David Bednall's organ accompaniments as full of colour and pizzazz as one could want. It all adds up to stunning performances of outstanding music … Leighton's memory is well served in this superb release' (Gramophone)

'The quintissential English cathedral ambience evoked by the choir, organ and acoustic of Wells is well captured by Hyperion and perfectly serves the unmistakable muscular language of Kenneth Leighton's music' (Choir & Organ)

'This CD takes its title from an Epiphany sequence, and includes fine music for organ and a set of morning canticles never before recorded. Wells Cathedral Choir is in cracking form' (The Observer)

'Two things stand out in this new release featuring a selection of Kenneth Leighton's sacred choral music: the inclusion of three first-time recordings and the glorious, energetic performances of the Wells Cathedral Choir … the return of Heber's hymn [The World's Desire] brings both the work and the disc to a close in such a spine-tinglingly awesome fashion that the listener is compelled to hit the 'play button' again almost immediately' (International Record Review)

'The full-throated, passionate performances by the Wells singers for Hyperion are highly persuasive' (Classical Music)
Leighton composed a set of Morning Canticles (with words from the Revised Psalter) for the centenary thanksgiving service of Monkton Combe School, held in St Paul’s Cathedral, London, on 8 May 1968. These were settings conceived for the occasion and the choral forces available: they may be performed in unison, for SATB voices, or, as in this recording, for unison voices and SATB chorus. The Venite is set to a vigorous march-like gait, the voices initially in unison, but quickly breaking into two-part imitative counterpoint as God is praised. At ‘today, if ye will hear his voice’ the music reaches its climax. Dissonant organ chords announce the ‘Gloria’, whose melody is a variant of the march tune.

The Te Deum laudamus begins mysteriously with the choir singing in unison, as if chanting a prayer. With a quickening of tempo an incessant rhythm on the organ underpins the unceasing praise to God. Apostles, Prophets, Martyrs and Holy Church continue the catalogue of tribute with a melody related to the introduction, to which short decorative arching phrases are added. After a climax at ‘We believe that thou shalt come: to be our Judge’, the tempo slackens as the music briefly takes on a mood of prayerful supplication. From here on, slowly and inexorably, the music swells in power until its emphatic conclusion.

With its lightness and spring the Jubilate Deo has the character of a triple-time dance, for this is music brimming with joy. Generally the unison line is supported by two of the choral parts, leaving the others to add decorative contrapuntal lines. A climax is reached at ‘we are his people’; then the music turns reflective with the anticipation of entering the gates of God’s kingdom, before building assertively to ‘For the Lord is gracious’. In the concluding Gloria, sung mezzo piano throughout, the main unison melody is suffused with a halo of decorative embellishments from the upper voices of the choir.

from notes by Andrew Burn © 2008

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