Just in time for the holidays: The University of Southampton Choral Scholars – Cantores Michaelis – have just released their first commercial recording. Christmas Carols 1500-2000 is issued by the Herald label and is now on sale in record shops, at Turner Sims Concert Hall on campus, and through Amazon, and will shortly be available on iTunes.
The carols are an eclectic mix. Director and founder Keith Davis wished to capture the warm glow and atmosphere of traditional Christmas carols with just the regular nine choral scholars. This recording reveals the differing vocal tone colours, energy and vivacious vocal abilities of this talented group of students from the University of Southampton.
The contrasting styles on the disc range from the vibrant performance of the well-known ‘Gabriel’s Message’, through Elizabethan texts set by composers in the last eighty years. Elizabeth Kenny, one of Europe’s leading lute players, beautifully accompanies the group and soloists to give a reflective and spiritual breath to parts of the CD. There are some less familiar gems such as ‘O Little Town of Bethlehem,’ as set by Henry Walford Davies (Master of The King’s Musick 1934-41); ‘Adeste Fidelis’ (O come all ye faithful) in an arrangement by Vincent Novello; and a new arrangement by Keith Davis of the perennial item at most Nine Lessons and Carol Services – The Three Kings – here sung in German as ‘Drei König’, and coupled with ‘Stille Nacht’ (Silent Night). Here’s a short promotional video with the processional ‘We’ve been a while a-wandering’:
The disc includes vibrant traditional carols such as ‘Good King Wencelas’, ‘We Three Kings’, ‘Deck the Halls’, ‘Jingle Bells’ and a schmaltzy performance of ‘Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas’.
The carols on this CD reflect the regular Christmas repertoire sung by Cantores Michaelis in the ancient Southampton City Church of St Michael the Archangel, where they provide music for the liturgy in term time. This is the fifteenth anniversary year of University of Southampton Choral Scholars, and the recording is a fitting reminder of the many talented singers who have been members of Cantores Michaelis and have gone onto to work as professionals in the industry.