Orchestral Anthems - Dyson, Howells, Elgar, Finzi. Choir of Merton College, Oxford; Britten Sinfonia / Benjamin Nicholas. © 2023 Delphian Records Ltd

CD Spotlight

A Truly Memorable Issue

GERALD FENECH listens to orchestral anthems by several English composers

'... not only powerful but joyously uplifting.'


Let me start by saying this disc is absolutely inspiring, edifying and entrancing. I think it would not be amiss to begin with some information on the real protagonists of this enticing programme: The Choir of Merton College, Oxford. This choir combines responsibilities of the school's chapel services with a schedule of touring across the UK and internationally. Choral singing at Merton College Chapel dates back to the late thirteenth century when it was founded, but the present choir was founded in 2008 as a mixed-gender adult ensemble. A Girl Choristers group was added in 2016 and sometimes performs with the main choir.

Listen — George Dyson: Magnificat (Evening Service in D)
(DCD34291 track 3, 0:00-0:51) ℗ 2023 Delphian Records Ltd :

Soon after its formation the choir toured France, Sweden, Italy and the US amongst other countries. The choir has fulfilled many London engagements in venues such as Temple Church, Cadogan Hall and also at major English cathedrals. The choir's repertory is varied indeed, extending from Thomas Tallis' Spem in Alium through major choral works by Bach, Handel and Mozart, to decidedly secular pieces such as Orff's Carmina Burana and an amount of contemporary music. The ensemble has also premiered major works by modern composers such as Harrison Birtwistle and Cecilia McDowall.

This spectacular compilation brings together a collection of sacred works from the first half of the twentieth century that were composed to be heard with orchestra or subsequently orchestrated by their composer or a close colleague. Written for enthronements, coronations and the nation's grandest choral festivals, these national standards are here brought back to life in all their glory through stirring orchestral accompaniments, affording them the richness, pomp and majesty associated with that epoch.

Listen — Vaughan Williams, orch Arnold Foster: Te Deum in G
(DCD34291 track 7, 0:00-0:58) ℗ 2023 Delphian Records Ltd :

Space constraints do not allow me to describe each item in full, but the programme is listed on the accompanying information page for the benefit of those who wish to delve deeper into the history of each piece.

Benjamin Nicholas' conducting is nothing short of full-blooded, and his singers and players respond with eloquent beauty that makes the music sound not only powerful but joyously uplifting. This is a truly memorable issue that gave me so much courage to believe that there is still reason to cherish life despite its trials and tribulations.

Listen — Purcell, orch Elgar: Jehova, quam multi sunt hostes mei
(DCD34291 track 6, 5:48-6:41) ℗ 2023 Delphian Records Ltd :

Sound and booklet notes are superb. Do treat yourself to a special experience.

Copyright © 6 July 2023 Gerald Fenech,
Gzira, Malta



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