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Christmas at St George's Windsor

A sequence of music for Advent, Christmas & Epiphany
St George's Chapel Choir Windsor, James Vivian (conductor), Luke Bond (organ) Detailed performer information
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Label: Hyperion
Recording details: Various dates
Various recording venues
Produced by Adrian Peacock
Engineered by David Hinitt
Release date: November 2019
Total duration: 70 minutes 11 seconds

Cover artwork: St George's in Winter (2019) by Denis Pannett (b1939)
Temple Island Collection / www.templeisland.com
 

The Choir of St George’s Chapel, world famous through its royal patronage, is one of this country’s foremost, participating in daily services throughout the year at its Windsor Castle home. Here the choir performs a wide range of music appropriate to the seasons of Advent, Christmas and Epiphany.

Reviews

‘Two recent royal weddings have put St George's firmly in the spotlight, and this new disc shows its all-male choir is a force to be reckoned with … conductor James Vivian deserves major credit for his preparation of the singers, whose dedication and artistry make this a deeply satisfying recital’ (BBC Music Magazine)» More

‘This superior seasonal disc, chiefly of carols (some with organ played by Luke Bond), is satisfyingly divided into three parts: Advent, Christmas and Epiphany. Each starts with a plainchant, followed by a Byrd polyphonic setting. There are lively juxtapositions of old and new, as when Byrd is followed by Alun Hoddinott, then Gibbons by Michael Finnissy’s affecting carol Telling’ (The Sunday Times)

‘St George's Chapel has a splendid choral tradition to uphold and it is evident that is safe under the direction of James Vivian and Luke Bond together with the Choristers and Lay Clerks. This CD is a joy and delight: it is all that a choral recording should be—there is splendid ensemble singing (tuning, dynamics, etc.), sympathetic accompaniments and the solos given by the Lay Clerks are spot on’ (Organists' Review)

‘A humble, beautiful, faithfully sung and straightforward presentation of wonderful music that will take you back to a time long forgotten and in separate need of resurrection in our modern society. Sonics are wonderful and the choir is obviously on top of its game. Sit back, relax, and delve into the mysteries of the season’ (Audiophile Audition, USA)» More

‘This is a well thought out and presented programme in three sections corresponding to the seasons of Advent, Christmas and Epiphany … a seasonal disc that is well worth exploring’ (British Music Society Journal)» More

‘This is, at any time of the year and in any place, a really lovely recording of some exquisite singing … as seasonal music goes, this new release from Hyperion is almost 70 minutes of pure magic’ (MusicWeb International)» More

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The College of St George, a self-governing religious community of clergy and laity, was founded by King Edward III in 1348. Its role is centred on St George’s Chapel, to pray for the King and his successors, to maintain the Opus Dei, and to provide a spiritual home for the Order of the Garter, the most senior of the British orders of chivalry. Apart from a short period of closure during the Commonwealth in the seventeenth century, the College has served continuously to the present time. The Choir consists of some twenty choristers and twelve lay clerks. The latter live, with their families, within the walls of Windsor Castle, which is a working royal residence, while the choristers are educated at St George’s School, beneath the Castle walls. The Choir is thus part of a resident community, dedicated to supporting the work of the Chapel. Visitors from all over the world find here not only inspiring architecture and exquisite decoration, but also a living environment of prayer and worship. Hence the music of the Choir is not just an adornment of the Chapel’s offering of worship, but is an act of worship in its own right.

At the heart of the Choir’s work is the pattern of daily services throughout the year, for which repertory is drawn from the medieval period to the present day. Special occasions, as well as the major festivals of the church’s year, entail special music. Christmas is a particularly busy season. In addition to its day-to-day work, the Choir gives at least three concerts in Windsor and elsewhere, as well as two carol services, a Midnight Mass, and two services on Christmas Day itself. The music heard here has all featured at one or other of these services and concerts. The brother of actress Dame Sybil Thorndike, Russell, was a chorister in the closing years of Queen Victoria’s reign, and wrote a vivid account of his Christmas experiences in Windsor Castle:

The Castle was at its gayest … and we always liked life better when the Castle was full. The Queen loved to get all her distinguished relations about her … Sometimes they were invited for special occasions, and we used to wonder which king would be given which place in Chapel. Joy was certainly the keynote to our Windsor Christmases; and whereas other schoolboys would be most indignant at being kept from home for the festive season, we wouldn’t have missed a minute of it, nor have had it otherwise.

John Heighway © 2019

Picture of The Revd Canon Martin Poll © PA ImagesAs Canon Precentor, I am delighted to have this opportunity to introduce this latest recording made by The Choir of St George’s Chapel, Windsor Castle.

In recent years many millions of people will have had the opportunity of seeing St George’s Chapel, the spiritual heart of Windsor Castle, as the Church in which two royal weddings have been solemnized. A vast number of people have entered the Chapel as part of a visit to the Castle. Many who do so are struck by the sheer beauty of the building, its light and delicate architecture drawing the eye upwards beyond our everyday lives and their concerns.

As the Chapel of the Order of the Garter, we aim to celebrate and embody their ideal of service to the nation and to the world. Praying each day for the members of the Order (founded by King Edward III in 1348) both living and departed, we are encouraging those present to live lives inspired by the virtues of service and self-sacrifice.

Moreover, in this most beautiful building each day throughout the Chapel’s history, worship has been offered to almighty God, and music has played a central role in that offering from the earliest days—it still does. This is true of great national services, such as the Service for the Order of the Garter, or the Service of the Royal Maundy. But music offered to the highest possible standard of musicianship and devotion is also a feature of the daily office of evensong, sung six days a week throughout the year, where the Choir sings anthems from a wide repertoire of choral music reflecting the liturgical seasons of the Church. In this recording the Choir performs music appropriate to the seasons of Advent, Christmas and Epiphany, leading us through the season of anticipation and preparation, to the joyful celebration of the Incarnation, and culminating in the affirmation of Epiphany that the redemption that Christ brings is to the whole world. I very much hope that you enjoy this collection of sacred music brought to you by The Choir of St George’s Chapel, and that in listening you are also brought close to the enduring truths of the Christian faith for which the Chapel has stood for so many hundreds of years.

Martin Poll © 2019

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