Music Review: A Fine Survey of English Choral Music from the Choir of St. John's College, Cambridge

By Miller, Sarah Bryan | St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO), April 10, 2016 | Go to article overview

Music Review: A Fine Survey of English Choral Music from the Choir of St. John's College, Cambridge


Miller, Sarah Bryan, St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)


There is nothing quite like the distinctive sound of an English choir of men and boys. On Friday night at the Cathedral Basilica of St. Louis, one of the best of them paid a call: the 17 boy choristers, 15 male choral scholars, two organ scholars and director of the renowned Choir of St. John's College, Cambridge.

Cathedral Concerts pulled in a good audience for the final event of the choir's Spring 2016 tour, with some audience members coming from distant cities .

Director of music Andrew Nethsingha selected a program made almost entirely of English music from the last five centuries, from William Byrd (c. 1543-1623) to James Burton (b. 1974), with a couple of Continental incursions along the way. Each half of the concert was broken up with an organ solo by one of the two organ scholars who took part in the tour, the better to avoid wearing out the trebles.

The performance opened with the unmistakably English Mass in G minor by Ralph Vaughan Williams (1872-1958); composed in 1921, it's of a stylistic piece with his pastoral instrumental works. Written for unaccompanied choir and soloists, it provided a fine introduction to this ensemble; each of its five movements was rendered perfectly.

After Buxtehude's Praeludium in E, expertly played by Glen Dempsey, there were three works commissioned by Nethsingha in the last 10 years. The first was Burton's "O Thoma," in praise of the Apostle Thomas, a busy piece that (fittingly, given the text) had aspects of a drinking song. …

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