An eminently enjoyable release that will please fans of The King’s Singers and lovers of Christmas music alike.
This disc is the companion release of The King’s Singers’ Christmas DVD that was reviewed for this site by Simon Thompson. It is also the group’s second Christmas CD on Signum Classics. The first was cKing's Singers Christmas (SIGCD502), a studio album of remarkable depth and beauty that remains among the finest collections of carols for advent I have ever heard. If you don’t already own that disc you should order it without delay and in priority to this new one.
Which is not to say that this new disc is unworthy. Far from it. Where the studio album from 2003 is inward, serious andRead more contemplative, this new album – recorded live in concert around this time last year – is necessarily more gregarious. Its programme is also more varied in mood and tone. Interestingly, where the new disc sings the sacred there is considerable overlap with the earlier disc – 6 tracks in all. It is interesting to compare the alternative readings of the same songs, especially given that only counter-tenor David Hurley, tenor Paul Phoenix and baritone Philip Lawson remain of the 2003 line up. Generally the studio recordings are slightly to be preferred, though the new version of
The Crown of Roses is indisputably more dramatic, thanks in part to the contribution of new counter-tenor Timothy Wayne-Wright. Jonathan Howard, the new bass, is lighter in tone that his predecessor Stephen Connolly – an observation rather than a criticism. What amazes is just how consistent the sound of this group is. Their balance, clarity and sensitivity to text remain unsurpassed.
The gentle beauty of the arrangements and settings by Rutter and baritone Philip Lawson are among the highlights of this collection. Lawson’s setting of the medieval English text,
Lullay my Liking,
is particularly gorgeous. The Saint-Saëns part-song was an unexpected treat. It was also nice to hear Bob Chilcott’s ostinato-driven arrangement of
Greensleeves turning up with different lyrics as
What Child is This? The opening and closing tracks, too, are old friends – upbeat winners that a very different King’s Singers line-up recorded in 1973 on their EMI Christmas album,
Deck the Hall (now only available as an
ArkivCD). In fact, the two closing tracks in particular bring the programme to a close with brilliant and witty arrangements - “endearingly madcap” is Simon Thompson’s apt phrase - brilliantly and wittily sung.
I do have reservations about one track though, and it happens to be the longest. I have no doubt that, live in concert, The King’s Singers’ performance of
The Twelve Days of Christmas,
spiced with the ‘thank you’ letters penned by John Norwich, would have been hilarious. The giggling audience, hardly audible for the first half of the album, prove that Christmas pudding. My issue is not with the humour of the piece – it is pretty funny – but with its placement on a Christmas CD that is likely to get repeated play over the next month. It is a track that most listeners will, after a couple of listenings, want to skip.
In his review of
The King’s Singers’ Christmas DVD, Simon indicated that the visual element was not really necessary to that studio-style recording, and in fact that the images used were not always apposite to the music being sung. Here the reverse is the case. The King’s Singers are not just singers. They are performers, and with an audience before them their concerts are visually as well as musically interesting. Filming this concert for release on DVD would have enhanced the charms and comedy of
The Twelve Days with the visual humour that the group must have deployed.
Minor carping aside, this is an eminently enjoyable release that will please fans of The King’s Singers and lovers of Christmas music alike.
Jingle Bellsby James Pierpont Orchestra/Ensemble:
Period: Romantic Written: 1857; USA Notes: arr. Gordon Langford
Deck the Hallsby Traditional Orchestra/Ensemble:
Written: Wales, UK Notes: arr. Gordon Langford
Average Customer Review: ( 1 Customer Review )
You Must Hear Track 13!January 18, 2013By James W. (Woodbridge, VA)See All My Reviews"Good music as usual from this group. The editorial reviewer (Tim Perry) did not particularly care for the humorous rendition of the Twelve Days of Christmas (Track 13) because people would get tired of it after a while. We have found it just the opposite. While normal activities continue with the other tracks as background music, everyone stops to listen to Emily's thank you notes."Report Abuse