CD Review: Light’s Glittering Morn, The Choir of Christ Church St Laurence

Image: detail from Christ the King (2005) from The Orthodox Art Series by Earle Backen courtesy Christ Church St Laurence


Commemorating the season of Lent, The Choir of Christ Church St Laurence in Sydney has released an anthology of seasonal music from Lent to Easter, titled Light’s Glittering Morn.

Directed by Dr Neil McEwen AM,  with organist Peter Jewkes, the 34 strong choir sings 14 works from Gregorian chant to the 20th century which observe “the liturgical calendar…. and present(s ) music in a similar context to that which is provided in the liturgies at Christ Church St Laurence.” This journey from Lent to Easter embraces an extraordinary breadth of repertoire which includes hymns and chants, anthems and a mass, songs and a Te Deum.

The programming has embraced the opposing sentiments of death and resurrection without too much brooding, looking forward to the optimism of Easter as suggested by the title of the recording. Lent is traditionally a time of introspection and abstinence. There is an acknowledgement of these moods in selections like Antonio Lotti’s sublimely beautiful Crucifixus and the hymn When I survey the wondrous cross; there are pleas for absolution in Purcell’s Remember not, Lord, our offences and John Blow’s Salvator Mundi – all antecedents, liturgically speaking, to the resurrection which is celebrated with selections which include Resurrexi, an ancient Gregorian chant in Mode IV sung on Easter Day, Simon Lindley’s arrangement of the French Traditional Now the green blade riseth and Philip Ledger’s arrangement of the Dutch carol This Joyful Eastertide, culminating in the hymn by Ralph Vaughan-Williams from which the CD takes its name.

Light’s Glittering Morn is an opportunity to revel in the beauty of seamlessly blended choral voices,  the resounding power of organ improvisation, to be swept to the heights of descant counter melody and to immerse yourself in the rich history of this music for which the liner notes provide important detail, along with the full text of all the works (except the Missa Omnes Sancti).

The Choir of Christ Church St Laurence is regarded as one of Sydney’s finest liturgical ensembles. Conductor and early music scholar Dr Neil McEwen has a long and highly acclaimed association with the choir. They deliver the wide ranging stylistic demands and colours of this programme moving from pared down Plainsong, polyphony and the dance- like ring of This Joyful Eastertide to the  hushed reverence of supplication in Salvator Mundi and the full-voiced homophonic thrust of anthems and hymns –  opening in unison then diverging into parts with descant.

Being of the faith isn’t a pre-requisite to appreciating this CD. Sacred values apart, the musicians are a pleasure to hear, the repertoire reaches beyond the absolute value of the music, deep into people, places and times in history; the notes have an abundance of information.

Shamistha de Soysa for SoundsLikeSydney©

The CD costs $30 and is available on iTunes and the Parish Office.


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