Mr Chilcott is justly celebrated as the composer of wellcrafted and highly effective anthems, carols and part-songs. We now find him responding to the challenge of setting a demanding and lengthy text, and the result is a work of real quality and substance. The St John Passion for soloists, choir and congregation is his response to a commission from Wells Cathedral for a setting of the traditional Gospel narrative from the King James Bible, and it has become an established part of the Palm Sunday liturgy at Wells. The scoring is notably economical, requiring in addition to the organ only a small brass ensemble, timpani, viola and cello. Small choral societies might do well to give the work more than a passing glance, for this reason if for no other. The tenor soloist takes the traditional role of evangelist; his lengthy passages of recitative are set in arioso style with instrumental accompaniment, as are the words of Christ, Pilate etc.; the choir takes the part of the crowd in traditional fashion and also is assigned several settings of non-Biblical words reflective of the scenes being narrated. The composer’s own tunes to well-known hymns are a notable inclusion, perhaps the most immediately attractive part of the work; they are admirably sung in this recording by the cathedral’s choral society and special choir. It scarcely needs saying that the cathedral choir (boys and girls together) is as excellent as ever, and great praise is owed to the various soloists whether vocal or instrumental, especially to the Evangelist (Ed Lyon), whose singing is notable for its control, expressiveness and clarity of enunciation. This is a fine CD, well worth your attention.