Thanks to its in-house recording system, the King’s College Choir is able to offer us a snapshot of its musical activities during the past academic year. As you would expect, the range of music in any season would be rather diverse, and so it is here. There is a central core of English fare: Tallis, Parsons, Parry and Vaughan Williams, but continental influences include Poulenc and Mendelssohn, whilst more recent music by Giles Swayne and Henryk Górecki is also included.
Having listened to many recordings of this choir over the years, I was struck by the freshness and clarity of the sound that the current microphone placement delivers. This clarity, combined with the live nature of these performances, shows the choir (and its chapel’s famous acoustic) in a different light. Take, for example, Swayne’s Magnificat. A certain exuberance and spontaneity add to the choir’s customary technical precision. The result is a livelier and slightly less homogenous sound than some of the choir’s ‘studio’ recordings—this is no bad thing.
Whether it be the intimacy of Poulenc’s Christmas motets, the intensity of Górecki’s Totus Tuus, the grandeur of Parry or the romanticism of Mendelssohn, there is a welcome vibrancy to the music making. The insightful notes, written by a choral scholar who has recently finished his time in the choir, add a nice personal touch.