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A Cappella From St. Thomas Church / Hancock, St. Thomas Choir

St Thomas Choir Of Men & Boys
Release Date: 05/19/1998 
Label:  Koch International Classics Catalog #: 7351   Spars Code: DDD 
Composer:  Charles WoodGiovanni PalestrinaRobert ParsonsAnton Bruckner,   ... 
Performer:  Gerre Hancock
Conductor:  Gerre Hancock
Orchestra/Ensemble:  St. Thomas Men and Boy's Choir
Number of Discs: 1 
Recorded in: Stereo 
Length: 0 Hours 57 Mins. 

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This CD is reissued by ArkivMusic.

Notes and Editorial Reviews

At first glimpse, this program is yet one more fine example of choral practice at, arguably, one of the premiere Episcopal parishes in the country, the flagship church on tony Fifth Avenue, with a music program worthy of the setting. So, it would be tempting to dismiss the disc with the requisite kindness toward both conductor and singers. But such glibness would also be superficial, for larger issues loom and more profound musical rewards abound.

Hearing this music, none of which is particularly esoteric, reminds us that even the incontrovertible mainstays of the past are subject to revision in the present. Was it not so long ago that the choral music and practice of the Christian church rested on a secure historical
Read more tradition to which repertoire only the best of new art gained admission? Was it not the rigorous canon of "high church," particularly Roman and Anglo Caltholicism, that song, like priestly service, was the exclusive domain of males? And, was it not an axiom that, culturally, the church mirrored the values and customs of the West and, in turn, Western society rested upon the bulwark of the church?

It takes no ardent postmodern deconstructivist to see that these models of the church, church music, even Western society, are forever things of the past. So, one might be tempted to view the few surviving organizations like the St. Thomas Choir of Men and Boys as some sort ofbizarre Anglican holdout, a scene lifted from the world of the precious, wistful British (and American wanabee) elite, a world where (white) men of wealth and privilege sent their sons to schools in which choirs would tenaciously hang onto the traditions of the West. Is this disc, and so many others like it. just so much sexist, racist nostalgia?

Hardly. Gerre Hancock is an eminently pragmatic musician. Clearly, his program at St. Thomas not only preserves past tradition most notably the choir school and the men and boys—without apology, but fully embraces mainstream modernity. For instance, Hancock adds three of his hallmark organ improvisations to this disc, one each following the motets of Tallis and Purcell and the Spiritual setting of Bruce Saylor. Gerre Hancock holds laureate honors as improviser, and the influence of French musical idioms is both obvious and welcome. Each of his movements are character (and to a lesser degree thematic) takeoffs on the proceeding source: a pointillistic. sometimes bluesy look at the Tallis Laudate Dominum, a Durulfé-laced meditation on Purcell's Hear my Prayer, O Lord, and a French toccata on the syncopations and pentatonicism of Go, Tell It on the Mountain.

Anyone with a half-decent collection of choral music, in particular of the British cathedral and collegiate boychoir sort, probably already owns nearly all of these motets. Lately, as the smaller "boutique" choirs (of men and women) have begun to encroach upon this repertoire, fewer of the former are newly produced. Furthermore, on balance, it bears noting that the perfection of groups like the Tallis Scholars or the Choir of Trinity College, Cambridge, is tough to dispute. Still, the particular character of these boys' voices is irresistible and puts a body and center to the polyphonic lines harder to achieve otherwise. The mysterious, solemn Tavener accounting of the three women arriving at Jesus' tomb on the morning of the resurrection personifies the ideal fit of literature and medium. There, not only do the treble lines have buoyancy and grace, but the chant spells are subtly and beautifully accomplished by the tenors and basses, and the softly descending countertenor lines are spectacular.

Listening past the interpretations, which are, in the main, unremarkably good, and reveling in the choral instrument itself shed light on the issue of living tradition of the past and its congruity at century's end. Some artifacts simply need to be as they arc, unchanged, unashamed, and an entirely comfortable part of an evolving world.

-- Haig Mardirosian, FANFARE [9/1998] Read less

Works on This Recording

1. Hail, gladdening light by Charles Wood
Conductor:  Gerre Hancock
Orchestra/Ensemble:  St. Thomas Men and Boy's Choir
Period: Romantic 
Written: England 
Date of Recording: 05/1998 
Venue:  Saint Thomas Church, Fifth Avenue, NY 
Length: 3 Minutes 15 Secs. 
2. Sicut cervus by Giovanni Palestrina
Conductor:  Gerre Hancock
Orchestra/Ensemble:  St. Thomas Men and Boy's Choir
Period: Renaissance 
Written: by 1581; Italy 
Date of Recording: 05/1998 
Venue:  Saint Thomas Church, Fifth Avenue, NY 
Length: 3 Minutes 9 Secs. 
3. Exsultate Deo by Giovanni Palestrina
Conductor:  Gerre Hancock
Orchestra/Ensemble:  St. Thomas Men and Boy's Choir
Period: Renaissance 
Written: by 1584; Italy 
Date of Recording: 05/1998 
Venue:  Saint Thomas Church, Fifth Avenue, NY 
Length: 2 Minutes 16 Secs. 
4. Ave Maria by Robert Parsons
Conductor:  Gerre Hancock
Orchestra/Ensemble:  St. Thomas Men and Boy's Choir
Period: Renaissance 
Written: 1560s; England 
Date of Recording: 05/1998 
Venue:  Saint Thomas Church, Fifth Avenue, NY 
Length: 4 Minutes 19 Secs. 
5. Ave Maria by Anton Bruckner
Conductor:  Gerre Hancock
Orchestra/Ensemble:  St. Thomas Men and Boy's Choir
Period: Romantic 
Written: Austria 
Date of Recording: 05/1998 
Venue:  Saint Thomas Church, Fifth Avenue, NY 
Length: 2 Minutes 59 Secs. 
6. Ave Maria by Igor Stravinsky
Conductor:  Gerre Hancock
Orchestra/Ensemble:  St. Thomas Men and Boy's Choir
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1949; USA 
Date of Recording: 05/1998 
Venue:  Saint Thomas Church, Fifth Avenue, NY 
Length: 1 Minutes 33 Secs. 
7. Liber secundus sacrarum cantionum: Haec dies by William Byrd
Conductor:  Gerre Hancock
Orchestra/Ensemble:  St. Thomas Men and Boy's Choir
Period: Renaissance 
Written: by 1591; London, England 
Date of Recording: 05/1998 
Venue:  Saint Thomas Church, Fifth Avenue, NY 
Length: 2 Minutes 40 Secs. 
8. When The Lord Turned Again The Captivity Of Sion (Psalm 126) by Anonymous
Conductor:  Gerre Hancock
Orchestra/Ensemble:  St. Thomas Men and Boy's Choir
Date of Recording: 05/1998 
Venue:  Saint Thomas Church, Fifth Avenue, NY 
Length: 1 Minutes 57 Secs. 
9. Laudate Dominum by Thomas Tallis
Conductor:  Gerre Hancock
Orchestra/Ensemble:  St. Thomas Men and Boy's Choir
Period: Renaissance 
Written: England 
Date of Recording: 05/1998 
Venue:  Saint Thomas Church, Fifth Avenue, NY 
Length: 3 Minutes 33 Secs. 
10. Improvisations for organ by Gerre Hancock
Performer:  Gerre Hancock (Organ)
Period: Contemporary 
Date of Recording: 05/1998 
Venue:  Saint Thomas Church, Fifth Avenue, NY 
Length: 3 Minutes 15 Secs. 
11. Hear my prayer, O Lord, Z 15 by Henry Purcell
Conductor:  Gerre Hancock
Orchestra/Ensemble:  St. Thomas Men and Boy's Choir
Period: Baroque 
Written: circa 1680-1682; England 
Date of Recording: 05/1998 
Venue:  Saint Thomas Church, Fifth Avenue, NY 
Length: 2 Minutes 28 Secs. 
12. Take him, earth, for cherishing by Herbert Howells
Conductor:  Gerre Hancock
Orchestra/Ensemble:  St. Thomas Men and Boy's Choir
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1964; England 
Date of Recording: 05/1998 
Venue:  Saint Thomas Church, Fifth Avenue, NY 
Length: 8 Minutes 19 Secs. 
13. Go tell it on the mountain by Traditional
Conductor:  Gerre Hancock
Orchestra/Ensemble:  St. Thomas Men and Boy's Choir
Period: Romantic 
Written: USA 
Date of Recording: 05/1998 
Venue:  Saint Thomas Church, Fifth Avenue, NY 
Length: 3 Minutes 46 Secs. 
14. Dum transisset sabbatum (i), motet for 5 (another version exists for 4) voices by John Taverner
Period: Renaissance 
Written: circa 1530-1540; England 
Date of Recording: 05/1998 
Venue:  Saint Thomas Church, Fifth Avenue, NY 
Length: 7 Minutes 25 Secs. 

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