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Psalms For The Spirit / Edison, Choir Of St John's, Elora


Release Date: 11/21/2006 
Label:  Naxos   Catalog #: 8557781   Spars Code: DDD 
Composer:  George Mursell GarrettJohn GossHerbert HowellsHenry Thomas Smart,   ... 
Performer:  Matthew Larkin
Conductor:  Noel Edison
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Elora Choir of St. John's
Number of Discs: 1 
Recorded in: Stereo 
Length: 1 Hours 1 Mins. 

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Notes and Editorial Reviews

In 1999 these same forces – but with a different organist – made a CD for Naxos entitled Psalms for the Soul (8.554823). It was my purchase of that disc that alerted me to the fine choral work being undertaken in Elora by Noel Edison. Further discs that he’s made, conducting both this choir and the Elora Festival Singers, have reinforced that initial favourable impression.

This CD is a follow-up to Psalms for the Soul and follows the same format in that the programme consists of several psalms sung to Anglican chant as well as a number of anthems that take one of the psalms for their text. I’m glad to note the inclusion of several fine chants from the Victorian heyday of Anglican chant, with Garrett, Goss, Smart and others
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But that tradition was still alive and well – indeed, flourishing – in the twentieth century and the chants to Psalms 121 (Howells), 137 (Noel Edison himself) and 111 (Matthew Larkin) are all fully respectful of the tradition yet contrive to speak with a suitably contemporary voice. I commend in particular Edison’s plangent chant, which is well suited to the sorrowful mood of Psalm 137 (‘By the waters of Babylon’). In both these modern chants and in the older chant settings the pointing and phrasing of the chants sounded absolutely faithful to the style and idiom. The words are clear and the harmonies well balanced. My only very slight regret is that I’d have liked to hear Matthew Larkin, an admirable organist throughout the programme, occasionally offer just a bit of decoration or illustration to some psalm verses. On one occasion he does let himself go, in the last two verses of the elaborate Bairstow chant: at the words ‘Tremble thou earth at the presence of the Lord’ Larkin makes the organ thunder beneath the singers, without overwhelming them, and the effect is thrilling.

Herbert Howells is represented by two different types of response to the Psalms. His double chant for Psalm 121 is quite lovely. I don’t know when this was written but the words evidently meant quite a lot to Howells for he included a setting of the same text in the wonderful Requiem that he composed in the 1930s but suppressed for many years. And his engagement with this psalm reached its apogee in his supreme masterpiece, Hymnus Paradisi (1938), in the fourth movement of which the words of that psalm are combined with the Sanctus from the Mass in an elaborate setting. The other Howells selection, O, pray for the peace of Jerusalem, is the first of five anthems In Time of War. These anthems, of which Like as the Hart is another, were all composed in January 1941, each in a single day. The present piece is a heartfelt, serene creation and it’s beautifully performed here.

Complete contrast comes in the form of Mathias’s exuberant and rhythmically perky Let the people praise thee, O God, which was written in 1981 for the wedding of Prince Charles and Lady Diana Spencer. This Elora performance is delightfully lively, with Matthew Larkin making an important contribution from the organ loft. He’s also prominent in Parry’s majestic I was glad, not least through a sonorous rendition of the introduction. Noel Edison leads a performance in which the singing is rather more restrained – though still full-toned – than I’ve sometimes heard on disc. He’s attentive to the need to provide light and shade in this work and this is definitely not a “can belto” performance of the type one sometimes hears. I thought it was refreshing though I suspect that the full choir is used in the short semi-chorus section at ‘O, pray for the peace of Jerusalem’ and at this point I’d have liked the contrast that a smaller group provides.

I must also mention Bob Chilcott’s My Prayer, which takes just a solitary verse – the first one – from Psalm 102. It’s more an exploration of choral textures than anything else with plaintive soprano solo lines rising out of the body of choral sound from time to time. As Keith Anderson says in his excellent liner-note, this effective piece “is a moving petition, an intense meditation and effective contrast to the more traditional chant here recorded.”

In summary, this is a fine disc. The singing is excellent throughout. Tuning and balance leave nothing to be desired and though Naxos provide the English texts the choir’s diction is so good that one scarcely needs to refer to the booklet. One small thing puzzles me: the booklet gives information about the Elora Festival Singers but I suspect this is a mistake since I understand this to be a completely separate choir to the one heard to such excellent effect on this CD, though Noel Edison conducts both. The performances are captured in truthful, clear yet atmospheric sound. This disc should be snapped up eagerly by lovers of the music of the English Church.

-- John Quinn, MusicWeb International
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Works on This Recording

1.
When the Lord turned again by George Mursell Garrett
Performer:  Matthew Larkin (Organ)
Conductor:  Noel Edison
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Elora Choir of St. John's
Period: Romantic 
Written: England 
Venue:  St. John's Church, Elora, Ontario 
Length: 2 Minutes 3 Secs. 
Language: English 
Notes: St. John's Church, Elora, Ontario (01/27/2005 - 01/30/2005) 
2.
Psalm 127 by John Goss
Performer:  Matthew Larkin (Organ)
Conductor:  Noel Edison
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Elora Choir of St. John's
Period: Romantic 
Venue:  St. John's Church, Elora, Ontario 
Length: 2 Minutes 15 Secs. 
Language: English 
Notes: St. John's Church, Elora, Ontario (01/27/2005 - 01/30/2005) 
3.
Psalm 122 by Herbert Howells
Performer:  Matthew Larkin (Organ)
Conductor:  Noel Edison
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Elora Choir of St. John's
Period: 20th Century 
Written: England 
Venue:  St. John's Church, Elora, Ontario 
Length: 7 Minutes 17 Secs. 
Language: English 
Notes: St. John's Church, Elora, Ontario (01/27/2005 - 01/30/2005) 
4.
Psalm 121 by Herbert Howells
Performer:  Matthew Larkin (Organ)
Conductor:  Noel Edison
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Elora Choir of St. John's
Period: 20th Century 
Written: England 
Venue:  St. John's Church, Elora, Ontario 
Length: 2 Minutes 33 Secs. 
Language: English 
Notes: St. John's Church, Elora, Ontario (01/27/2005 - 01/30/2005) 
5.
Thou, O God, art praised in Sion by Henry Thomas Smart
Performer:  Matthew Larkin (Organ)
Conductor:  Noel Edison
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Elora Choir of St. John's
Period: Romantic 
Written: England 
Venue:  St. John's Church, Elora, Ontario 
Length: 4 Minutes 14 Secs. 
Language: English 
Notes: St. John's Church, Elora, Ontario (01/27/2005 - 01/30/2005) 
6.
Let the people praise Thee, O God!, Op. 87 by William Mathias
Performer:  Matthew Larkin (Organ)
Conductor:  Noel Edison
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Elora Choir of St. John's
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1981; Wales, UK 
Venue:  St. John's Church, Elora, Ontario 
Length: 5 Minutes 30 Secs. 
Language: English 
Notes: St. John's Church, Elora, Ontario (01/27/2005 - 01/30/2005) 
7.
Blessed is he that considereth by Thomas Attwood
Performer:  Matthew Larkin (Organ)
Conductor:  Noel Edison
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Elora Choir of St. John's
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1804; England 
Venue:  St. John's Church, Elora, Ontario 
Length: 3 Minutes 57 Secs. 
Language: English 
Notes: St. John's Church, Elora, Ontario (01/27/2005 - 01/30/2005) 
8.
The Lord is King by George Mursell Garrett
Performer:  Matthew Larkin (Organ)
Conductor:  Noel Edison
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Elora Choir of St. John's
Period: Romantic 
Written: England 
Venue:  St. John's Church, Elora, Ontario 
Length: 2 Minutes 14 Secs. 
Language: English 
Notes: St. John's Church, Elora, Ontario (01/27/2005 - 01/30/2005) 
9.
Burial Service: I am the resurrection and the life, saith the Lord by William Croft
Performer:  Matthew Larkin (Organ)
Conductor:  Noel Edison
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Elora Choir of St. John's
Period: Baroque 
Written: by 1724; England 
Venue:  St. John's Church, Elora, Ontario 
Length: 2 Minutes 59 Secs. 
Language: English 
Notes: St. John's Church, Elora, Ontario (01/27/2005 - 01/30/2005) 
10.
Psalm 137 by Noel Edison
Performer:  Matthew Larkin (Organ)
Conductor:  Noel Edison
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Elora Choir of St. John's
Period: 20th Century 
Written: England 
Venue:  St. John's Church, Elora, Ontario 
Length: 3 Minutes 14 Secs. 
Language: English 
Notes: St. John's Church, Elora, Ontario (01/27/2005 - 01/30/2005) 
11.
Psalm 114 "When Israel came out of Egypt" by Edward Bairstow
Performer:  Matthew Larkin (Organ)
Conductor:  Noel Edison
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Elora Choir of St. John's
Period: 20th Century 
Venue:  St. John's Church, Elora, Ontario 
Length: 2 Minutes 16 Secs. 
Language: English 
Notes: St. John's Church, Elora, Ontario (01/27/2005 - 01/30/2005) 
12.
My Prayer by Robert Chilcott
Performer:  Matthew Larkin (Organ)
Conductor:  Noel Edison
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Elora Choir of St. John's
Period: 20th Century 
Written: England 
Venue:  St. John's Church, Elora, Ontario 
Length: 7 Minutes 19 Secs. 
Language: English 
Notes: St. John's Church, Elora, Ontario (01/27/2005 - 01/30/2005) 
13.
Psalm 111 by Matthew Larkin
Performer:  Matthew Larkin (Organ)
Conductor:  Noel Edison
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Elora Choir of St. John's
Written: by 2004; England 
Venue:  St. John's Church, Elora, Ontario 
Length: 3 Minutes 14 Secs. 
Language: English 
Notes: St. John's Church, Elora, Ontario (01/27/2005 - 01/30/2005) 
14.
Like as the hart desireth the waterbrooks by Samuel Wesley
Performer:  Matthew Larkin (Organ)
Conductor:  Noel Edison
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Elora Choir of St. John's
Period: Classical 
Written: England 
Venue:  St. John's Church, Elora, Ontario 
Length: 4 Minutes 34 Secs. 
Language: English 
Notes: St. John's Church, Elora, Ontario (01/27/2005 - 01/30/2005) 
15.
I was glad by Charles Hubert Parry
Performer:  Matthew Larkin (Organ)
Conductor:  Noel Edison
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Elora Choir of St. John's
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1902; England 
Venue:  St. John's Church, Elora, Ontario 
Length: 6 Minutes 25 Secs. 
Language: English 
Notes: St. John's Church, Elora, Ontario (01/27/2005 - 01/30/2005) 

Sound Samples

Psalm 126, "When the Lord restored the fortunes of Sion"
Psalm 127, "Except the Lord build the house, their labour is but lost that build it"
4 Anthems: No. 1. O pray for the peace of Jerusalem, "Psalm 122"
Psalm 121, "I will lift up mine eyes unto the hills"
Psalm 65, "Praise is due to thee O God in Sion"
Let the people praise thee, O God, Op. 87: "Psalm 67"
Psalm 41, "Blessed is he that considereth the poor and needy"
Psalm 93, "The Lord is King, and hath put on glorious apparel"
Burial Sentences, "I am the resurrection and the life, saith the Lord"
Psalm 137, "By the waters of Babylon we sat down and wept, when we remembered thee, O Sion"
Psalm 114, "When Israel came out of Egypt"
Psalm 102, "My Prayer": My Prayer, "Psalm 102"
Psalm 111, "I will give thanks unto the Lord with my whole heart"
Psalm 42, "Like as the hart desireth the water brooks, so longeth my soul after thee, O God"

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