Psalms for the Spirit

Noel Edisonís forces offer highly polished renditions that show great care in preparation and skill in execution. (As a side note, it is not entirely clear just who ìNoel Edisonís forcesî areóthe disc and cover material identify them as the Choir of St. Johnís, Elora; the liner notes, however, describe them as the professional Elora Festival Singers. One imagines a degree of overlap, in any event, but the editorial slip is irksome.) The choirís chanting is richly controlled, nicely articulate, and sensitively inflected. However, the price paid in order to achieve this level of control is an occasional trace of ìundersingingî and constraint. With the Anglican chants this is not particularly problematic as their verbal priority invites a lightness and ease of production. Similarly, in anthems such as the introspective ìO Pray for the Peace of Jerusalemî by Herbert Howells, the intimacy of the setting is well served by the close control. But despite all the good thingsówonderful blend, subtlety of inflection and articulationóit remains hard to shake the occasional trace of constraint and the wish for more freedom of sound. This is most apparent in Parryís war horse, ìI was Glad,î trotted out as a rousing conclusion to the program; it is well sung, but also a bit underwhelming. Or in William Matthiasís sprightly ìLet the Peoples Praise Thee, O God,î written for the 1981 wedding of the Prince of Wales and Lady Diana Spencer, the choir never yields to throw some unbuttoned caution to the wind, and the frolicsome lines are less rollicking for it.
The program itself is a well-crafted anthology of both anthems and chants, chestnuts (Garrett, Goss, and Samuel Wesley) and newer works (Chlicott, Larkin, and Edison). Of the newer pieces, Robert Chilcottís ìMy Prayerî is particularly notable. Combining interesting textures, harmonies, and evocations of Purcellís famous ìHear my prayer,î it is a challenging and welcome addition to a repertory that sometimes finds the shackle of tradition difficult to break.
Steven Plank

image_description=Psalms for the Spirit
product_title=Psalms for the Spirit
product_by=Choir of St. Johnís, Elora; Matthew Larkin, Organ; Noel Edison, Director.
product_id=Naxos 8.557781 [CD]