Yorkshire Times
A Voice of the Free Press
Andrew Palmer
Group Editor
1:54 PM 13th November 2022

Classical Music: Caritas - Music Of Love, Hope, Charity, And Consolation

Music of love, hope, charity, and consolation

Gjeilo Ubi caritas; Schubert Litanei D. 343; Bingham The Sleeping Soul; Tavener Song for Athene; Lowry arr Scott How can I keep from singing; Rutter God be in my head; Ireland Greater love hath no man; Burgon Nunc dimitis; Elgar Nimrod; Harris Faire is the heaven; Finzi Lo the full final sacrifice; Walford Davies Blessed are the pure in heart; Blatchly For the fallen; Purcell Thou knowest, Lord, the secrets of our hearts. Hymns: The day thou gavest and Abide with me

The Choir of Bath Abbey Directed by Huw Williams
Shean Bowers organ and piano
Olly Chubb trumpet.

Regent REGCD569

It is not until a CD like Caritas lands through the letterbox that one realises how much our cathedral and abbey choirs were missed during Covid lockdowns, a situation that led to a dearth of recording opportunities. However, in February this year, Bath Abbey Choir under its director, Huw Williams, recorded a collection of choral works celebrating love, hope and charity, demonstrating that eighteen months of lockdown did not dent their spirits as they give polished performances with clear singing.

The standout on this great disc is Shean Bowers' accompaniments, first-rate playing. Full organ is deployed and captured superbly by the Regent engineering team and it is wonderful to hear the climaxes and reeds effectively making an impact without being intrusive.

A case in point is Ireland’s Greater love. I have not heard it accompanied like this in a long time. Bowers reminded me of a master accompanist, the late Ron Perrin who, when on form at Ripon Cathedral, was hard to be matched. Congratulations to Regent and Huw Williams’ superb team, for brilliantly producing and capturing an authentic choral experience.

Another delight is the fifteen-minute Finzi anthem, Lo, the full final sacrifice. Its impressive and dramatic writing is delivered confidently by the girl choristers and lay clerks with once again, Bowers providing a superb cushion with great registrations. The crescendos and diminuendos from all the musicians are skilfully executed, and that final minute, when as Huw Williams rightly states in the notes, one of the finest settings of the word ‘Amen’, is sung, it gloriously and effortlessly appears out of the ether to end a beautiful rendition.

Bowers performs Elgar’s Nimrod with equal aplomb and as its chords fade the choir sing Harris’s unaccompanied and attractive Faire is the heaven, with well-controlled and confident singing as in Purcell’s Thou knowest.

There is so much to enjoy on this CD from Tavener’s Song for Athene, Ubi caritas by Norwegian composer Ola Gjeilo, simple and charming influenced by Gregorian chant to Schubert’s Litanei where Bowers adeptly accompanies on the piano and the melodic lines beautifully flow. Huw Williams own composition Lord, you have been my dwelling place commissioned for the 2021 anniversary remembrance service at Bath Abbey is dramatic with skilful writing for organ as it enters majestically on the words ‘you are God’.

Olly Chubb's striking trumpet playing adds to the ambience in Burgon’s Nunc Dimittis and Blatchly’s For the fallen.

The boys and girls come together for the two hymns and Huw Williams varies the verses, some unaccompanied, others splitting the lines up with men only, and in doing so, as for the whole of this disc, creates a great atmosphere through contrast in dynamics.

Delightful performances from the Bath Abbey Choir with singing that not only uplifts the soul, is well-balanced, has good rich tone and manages to be appropriately delicate and restrained or intense as the music demands. Huw Williams brings a fresh approach to each of the works and Shean Bowers’ exciting and outstanding playing makes this an attractive disc.