The Choirs at St Catharine's have recently embarked on a series of recordings with Resonus Classics; the first of which was released in November 2015. Also available are three former recordings. See below to purchase your copy today!
Sing Levy Dieu: Songs by Sally Beamish, Richard Rodney Bennett, Benjamin Britten, Jonathan Dove and Howard Skempton
Alongside Britten's much-loved Friday Afternoons, this recording includes Richard Rodney Bennett's delightful song cycles The Aviary and The Insect World; and virtuoso settings of Emily Dickinson by Jonathan Dove and Sally Beamish, previously unrecorded.
Sing Levy Dew is available to buy for a special price of £10 from the Porters' Lodge, and can also be bought as a CD or download from Resonus Classics.
'In the decade since its foundation, in 2008, the Girls’ Choir of St Catharine’s College, Cambridge, have garnered well-deserved plaudits for the conviction, warmth and immaculate control in their singing under their founder, Edward Wickham. All these qualities are present in abundance on this new disc of secular British works for upper voices. Its 36 tracks constitute a veritable box of delights, full of polished gems.
Opening with Jonathan Dove’s three a cappella Emily Dickinson settings of 2006, the 22 singers make light work of any contrapuntal challenges, emphasising the dramatic and ecstatic elements of the poetry. Diction and intonation are exemplary. Frederick Brown joins the choir for Richard Rodney Bennett’s two unison song collections from 40 years earlier, The Insect World and The Aviary, clearly relishing the delicious piano accompaniments. Of the former, ‘Clock-a clay’ stands out, as does ‘The Bird’s Lament’ from the latter. Howard Skempton’s timeless and tireless Five Poems of Mary Webb are a masterclass in triadic writing and should be heard by every serious student of harmony. The balance between the three parts is excellent.
The disc’s premiere recording is of Sally Beamish’s unaccompanied Seven Songs (1990), and in some ways is the toughest music both to sing and to assimilate. The final one of the set, ‘Sunset’, is the most striking. Composed for his brother’s school in Prestatyn, Benjamin Britten’s Friday Afternoons dates from 1933 35 and polishes up as fresh as ever. It is good to hear the oft-sung ‘A New Year Carol’ in its original context and to marvel, once again, at how Britten squeezes out every last drop of compositional technique in ‘Old Abram Brown’. As its haunting refrain concludes the disc, one hopes that this talented group will explore further the riches of the pre-war English repertory.'
'This splendid CD celebrates the 10th anniversary of the foundation of St Catharine's Girls' Choir, Cambridge, the first college-based girls' choir. They have come a long way in the last decade under their director Edward Wickham, and the evidence of this CD shows what an excepionally skilful and versatile group they are. Ending with Benjamin Britten's familiar Friday Afternoons, the programme takes us through song collections by subsequent generations of British composers, all of which reveal different facets of the possitilibites of writing for children's voices. Howard Skempton's Five Poems of Mary Webb, without piano and using two-voice textures, are especially effective, while Richard Rodney Bennett's The Insect World and The Aviary (both 1966) are full of infectious melodic writing. The choir's 22 voices are exceptionally well blended and sing at all times with utter conviction - they obviously thoroughtly enjoy what they're doing.'
Choir and Organ *****
Mon Dieu me paist: Psalm settings by Claude Le Jeune
Featuring previously unrecorded works by the French Renaissance masters Claude Le Jeune and Claude Goudimel, this ground-breaking album reveals something of the rich musical legacy of French Protestantism in an era of intense religious strife. Le Jeune's expansive settings of tunes from the Calvinist Genevan Psalter rival the most ambitious and virtuosic polyphony to emerge from the late Renaissance.
Mon Dieu me paist is available to buy for a special price of £10 from the Porters' Lodge, and can also be bought as a CD or download from Resonus Classics.
At first sight a disc of psalm tunes based on the Genevan Psalter does not seem like a particularly musically enticing prospect, but in the psalms of Claude Le Jeune, Edward Wickham and the choir of St Catharine's College, Cambridge have found a little gem. On this disc from Resonus Classics we have four of Claude Le Jeune's psalm settings from his Dodecacorde.
Claude Le Jeune was a French Protestant composer who lived during the complex Wars of Religion in 16th century France. His Dodécacorde is a set of 12 psalm settings (one in each mode), which was published in 1598. The piece was reprinted once, in 1618 with different texts, and then seems to have disappeared. Though each psalm is based on a tune from the Genevan Psalter (which included such still performed tunes as the Old Hundredth), Le Jeune's settings are far from simple, certainly not the plain and direct psalm tunes that we might expect to come out of the Calvinist psalter.
On this disc Wickham and his choir give us four of Le Jeune's settings (psalms 23, 45, 76 and 46), each one preceded by a simpler, hymn-like harmonisation of the relevant Genevan psalm melody. For good measure they throw in two of the best known Genevan psalm melodies, Old Hundredth and Cantique de Simeon.The choir of St Catharine's College sing this music with light, gentle tone and a lively sense of the innate rhythms of the music ... and overall there is a sense of clarity and delicay to the music ...
It is difficult to understand why this music is not better known, and certainly chamber choirs would do well to investigate the repertoire.This is subtle, not showy music and needs a few listenings for the details to tell.
Planet Hugill April 2018
Gaudent in Coelis
This third album in the Choirs' survey of contemporary Church music focuses on three leading British composers: Sally Beamish, Judith Bingham and Joanna Marsh. The programme includes Canticles and a Missa Brevis composed specially for St Catharine's, and three haunting 're-compositions' by Judith Bingham of choral classics by Tallis, Parry and Wesley.
Gaudent in Coelis is available to buy for a special price of £10 from the Porters' Lodge, and can also be bought as a CD or download from Resonus Classics.
'Beautifully sung ... I really appreciate the brilliance of the performance'
Harriet Kendall on BBC Radio 3 Record Review
'Many of the pieces here are CD premieres, and two were specially commissioned for the choirs of St Catharine’s College, Cambridge ... Together they lay down an early marker of sensitivity and technical adroitness in Joanna Marsh’s psalm setting Lord, Thou hast search me and known me, whose challenging harmonies and tricky intervals are raptly encompasses. Marsh’ darked-hued Missa Brevis has two sections for female singers only, while Judith Bingham’s austere Edington Servce is entirely for the upper voices. In both works the St Catharine’s girls and women exhibit a gleamingly blended tonal quality, and an articulate engagement with the Latin text.
'The tenors and basses have their own solo moments in Sally Beamish’s St Catharine’s Service, and produce a pleasingly focused sound, with fluid variation of dynamics and an impressive agreement on how vowels should sound. For much of this, of course, conductor Edward Wickham deserves credit: firm, intelligent shaping of this enterprising and rewarding recital is a major factor, as is the ripe Resonus recording.'
BBC Music Magazine
Ave Maria: Music for upper voices
The Girls' Choir's first solo recording features music by leading British contemporary composers, much of which was previously unrecorded. The programme includes Mass settings by John Tavener and Kenneth Leighton, canticles by Diana Burrell and Joanna Marsh, and motets by Judith Bingham, Rebecca Clarke, Cecilia McDowall and Stevie Wishart.
Ave Maria is available to buy for a special price of £10 from the Porters' Lodge, and can also be bought as a CD or download from Resonus Classics.
'Drawn from local Cambridge schools, the 20 young voices of St Catharine’s make up the only college-based girls’ choir in the country, one that since its inception in 2008 has committed itself to performing new music. As more choral foundations are establishing girls’ choirs, so the repertoire for upper voices is gradually expanding, with some interesting examples here from Judith Bingham, Cecilia McDowell and Stevie Wishart. Highlights include Kenneth Leighton’s pungent Missa Cornelia (1980), but the most successful piece in this collection is Joanna Marsh’s 2010 St Paul’s Service, which imaginatively pulls the harmonic idioms of 16th-century choral music into attractive new polyphony, splendidly performed by these exceptionally well-trained singers.'
'The softly undulating lines and shimmering blend of cecilia McDowall's lovely Ave Maria show the choir at their best, tugging and releasing their way through a lovely sequence of suspensions. The Renaissance-style writing of Rebecca Clarke's Ave Maria also works weel, its contrapuntal lines clearly picked out under Wickham's direction, as does the follow-my-leader scalic imitation of Judith Binham's God be in my head, banishing all memories of the Walford Davies setting with its instinctive response to text.'
'The development of girls' choirs in cathedrals and collegiate churches over the last 20 years has led to an increasing profile for such ensembles, and the development of suitable repertoire. This provides a showcase for the talents of the relatively new girls choirs. Two recent discs have come my way, both showing off the talents of cathedral and collegiate girls' choirs. The music moves from the rather traditional to the more modern, from a unison vocal line accompanied by a rich organ part to complex three-part unaccompanied textures, showing that composers and choirs are getting more daring ...
'Edward Wickham and the St Catharine's Girls Choir, Cambridge have recorded a disc of 20th and 21st century music on Resonus with Kenneth Leighton's Missa Cornelia, John Tavener's Missa Brevis, evening canticles by Diana Burrell and by Joanna Marsh, and smaller pieces by Rebecca Clarke, Judith Bingham, Cecilia McDowall and Stevie Wishart. St Catharine's Girls Choir was founded in 2008 at St Catharine's College, Cambridge. There are 20 girls, and the choir is the only college-based girls' choir in the UK and sings weekly in the college chapel ...
'Edward Wickham and St Catharine's Girl's Choir open with Diana Burrell's Magnificat and Nunc Dimittis (1996), commissioned by the Norwich Cathedral Ed-Choristers Guild to celebrate the 900th anniversary of the cathedral. Wickham describes them as 'bracing' and there is indeed a nice spikiness to the vocal harmony, with plenty of rhythmic interest and intriguing organ harmonies. Rebecca Clarke's Ave Maria (1937) has an attractive complexity to the melodic shapes, and conveys a very distinctive voice. Kenneth Leighton's Missa Cornelia (1980) was written for the choir if St Leonard's-Mayfield School. It opens with a bright, rhythmic and very appealing 'Kyrie', and the other movements have some wonderfully striking moments, leading to an austerely expressive 'Agnus Dei'. This is a fine performance of a terrific piece.
'Judith Bingham's God be in my head (2003) has a lovely fine-grained texture with clarity to the lines, and her Les Saintes Maries de la mer (2014) adds a certain spikiness too. This latter was written for a concert at the City of London Festival by girl's choirs from the cathedrals at St Albans, Guildford and Southwark. John Tavener's Missa Brevis (2005) was written for the choir of Westminster Cathedral. The 'Kyrie' starts with a long breathed melody over a drone, whilst the Christe has an austere clarity to the two moving parts. Each movement ('Gloria', 'Sanctus', 'Agnus Dei') seems to explore a different texture, but always a lovely rich harmonic language, with some very tricky moments (such as the wide intervals in the 'Sanctus') all beautifully achieved.
'Cecilia McDowall's Ave Maria (2004) is intense and austere, with some lovely suspensions and a magical ending. Steve Wishart's Three Carols (2014) were written for the choir and combine a medieval Celtic/folk inflection with some imaginative textures. Finally, Joanna Marsh's St Paul's Service shows a very distinctive and imaginative voice. The vocals are a mix of catchy motifs and spikiness with the organ contribution its own elements. I enjoyed this very much and it makes a fitting climax to a fine disc, one which I will enjoy listening to again.'
Planet Hugill Blog
'artless dexterity ... unified by a thread of tenderness and warmth'
Nova! Nova! is a collection of beautiful and evocative contemporary carols, featuring premieres from such composers as Richard Rodney Bennett, Roxanna Panufnik, Cecilia McDowall and John Tavener. It also includes works specially written for the Girls' Choir by Stevie Wishart and Christopher Fox, and was recorded in our very own College Chapel, conducted by Dr Edward Wickham.
Nova! Nova! is available to buy for a special price of £10 from the Porters' Lodge, and can also be bought as a CD or download from Resonus Classics.
St Catharine's Choirs have previously recorded three other CDs. To order a copy of The Thread of my Song or any other CD (price: £11 + £1 p&p for UK, £2 for overseas), please email firstname.lastname@example.org. Payment can be made by cheque, made out to St Catharine's College, and sent to College Music, St Catharine's College, Cambridge, CB2 1RL.
Alumni can order copies at the special price of £6 (+ £1 p&p for UK, £2 for overseas) direct from the Alumni Office at the College.
CD recordings are also on sale at the College Porters' Lodge.
The Thread of my Song
Music from the 17th and 21st centuries, sung by the Chapel and Girls’ Choirs of St Catharine’s College, Cambridge.
"Let the thread of my song never be broken …” Rig Veda II.28
This recording weaves together many threads – ancient and contemporary, Western and Eastern, folk and classical. With works specially commissioned from contemporary composers such as Gabriel Jackson, Jonathan Green, Christopher Fox and Nigel Hess interleaved with spiritual songs from the early 17th century, the recording presents a unique tapestry of vocal colours, and with it a celebration of the diversity of music-making at St Catharine’s.
Anthems from The Teares and Lamentations of a Sorrowful Soul(1614)
Canticles by Sally Beamish (St Catharine’s commission)
Benedictus by Nigel Hess (St Catharine’s commission)
Angeli, archangeli by Gabriel Jackson (St Catharine’s commission)
New works by Jonathan Green
with guest artist Merit Ariane Stephanos
Recorded in the chapel of St Catharine’s College on January 11, 12 and March 21, 22, 2011
This recording was made possible through the generosity of Dale Volberg Reed and John Shelton Reed
Music from St Catharine's
Vocal and instrumental music performed by the choir, college instrumentalists and guest artists; featuring music from Hildegard of Bingen to Robert Saxton.
Videte: Music by Thomas Tallis
An anthology of some of Tallis’s most sumptuous choral works.
" ... beautifully paced performances ... the voices blend magically, yet the detail of every strand is audible. This disc represents an achievement of which all St Catharine's College, Cambridge may be proud."