Over the years John Rutter’s Christmas recordings with his outstanding Cambridge Singers have become essential components of holiday tradition for choral music fans around the world. Throughout the 1980s and early ’90s Rutter’s legions of followers were treated to several now-classic CD albums for Collegium, including Christmas Night, Christmas with the Cambridge Singers, and Christmas Day in the Morning. It’s from these recordings that the present program was drawn, with the addition of two newly issued tracks–Dormi, Jesu and Love came down at Christmas. Yes, if you already own those other discs, for completeness’ sake and, well, just because it’s a new Rutter release, you’ll still have to have this one. And that’s not a bad thing at all, especially since all of these tracks have been remastered in notably clearer, more vibrant sound than their 10- or 15-year-old predecessors.
The selections focus on Rutter’s own compositions, with “a sprinkling” of his arrangements of traditional carols organized (in typical Rutter/Cambridge Singers fashion) into a thematically grouped program–Prologue, The Christmas Story, Christmas Night, Christmas reflections, Christmas Joy, and Epilogue–the latter consisting of a lovely setting of Silent Night, made for a 1988 BBC television production. And speaking of classics, among the 23 pieces heard here is Rutter’s masterpiece, What sweeter music, a staple of Christmas programs everywhere (and a continuing presence in a popular series of Volvo commercials), sounding even more glorious than ever.