This delightful disc opens with the jolly and appropriate Sing we and chaunt it by Robert Pearsall and it is at once clear that the standard of singing is high, with excellent ensemble, phrasing and intonation. Pearsall is well represented, as we then move on to four further works by this composer, including the moving and beautiful Light of my soul—where the Choir of Royal Holloway shows itself equally able to cope with long sustained phrases and gentle and tender atmospheres, and, rather bizarrely, Pearsall’s nevertheless effective Victorian rendition of the thirteenth century round Summer is y' coming in. Also extremely effective is Lay a garland with its glorious soaring voice lines.
The disc includes six world première recordings, by John Stainer (Disappointment, Dry your sweet cheek, Like as a ship, and The castle by the sea) and by Henry Leslie (My love is fair and Thine eyes so bright). The latter, undoubtedly less familiar to listeners, was well-known as a choral conductor in the nineteenth century, who formed his own choir, trained by him to extremely high standards, which gave regular madrigal concerts in the Hanover Square Rooms and St James’s Hall in London. The other unfamiliar name here is that of Arthur Goodhart, a master at Eton, whose Lady on the silver throne was commissioned by Walter Parratt and Arthur Benson for inclusion in The Triumphs of Oriana collection of choral songs to celebrate Queen Victoria’s 80th birthday. Stainer’s Flora's Queen, Elgar’s To her beneath whose steadfast star and Parry’s Who can dwell with greatness were also written for this important collection. The joy of this disc is that it ranges from the well-loved (such as Parry’s substantial La belle dame sans merci) through to works that will be unknown to most listeners, spanning all the while the full gamut of emotions.
As noted it has been recorded in All Hallows, Gospel Oak, an acoustic that appears on the disc as very reverberant, but in a way that suits the music, rather than detracting from it. The Choir of Royal Holloway under their assured conductor Rupert Gough excels in all; furthermore the disc is well presented with an attractive cover, and good booklet notes from Professor Jeremy Dibble.