The venerable Choir of King’s College, Cambridge, has recently put out a new album of a capella works that give a tour through the liturgical year that is the life blood of the King’s College Chapel. They may be known internationally for their tours and dozens of recordings, but week in and week out in the chapel they sing evensong most days of the school term, as well as services on Sunday mornings. The amount of repertoire that they cover in a year is phenomenal. (Think of it: choral responses, a sung Psalm, a choral setting of the Magnificat and Nunc dimittis, and an anthem for each evensong service.)
Stephen Cleobury, the college’s director of music since the early 1980s, has put together an interesting program of old and new: two of Arvo Pärt’s “Magnificat” antiphons; a new setting of the familiar Christmas Carol “Away In A Manger” by Sir John Tavener. (As it happens, I was present in Cambridge for the first performance of the piece at the Festival of Nine Lessons and Carols at King’s on Christmas Eve 2005, so I have a personal nostalgia for it. It’s too bad that I don’t think it’s that great a piece.) There are also new performances of old favorites: the Allegri Miserere and Thomas Tallis’s 40-voice motet Spem In Alium Nunquam Habui
The sound of the choir is not as perfect in blend as I have heard them in the past; however, this album in enjoyable and it is a nice souvenir of the music that one would hear in the mighty gothic chapel in Cambridge.