This CD was produced under the auspices of the Baltic Exchange, the great worldwide shipping organistation, and is described as “an original and exciting collection of anthems, hymns, part-songs and folk-songs, celebrating the Exchange’s long-standing support of seafarers and England’s rich maritime musical tradition.” It’s certainly eclectic but I wonder about the word “celebration”: this collection seems to me to be a perception of the sea as a threat (Eternal Father) or a metaphor for the end of love (Waly, waly, Blow the wind southerly) or even life itself (Never weather-beaten sail; There is an old belief; Crossing the bar; Nearer, my God to thee).
Nonetheless, in spite of these somewhat somber thoughts, there is much attractive music and the performances are excellent. Grayston Ives’ setting of Ps. 107 is rewarding for the singers; Jonathan Dove’s music for Phineas Fletcher’s Vast ocean of light achieves a style both modern and approachable; Malcolm Archer’s commissioned anthem on Eternal Father uses an ornamented version of the traditional tune Melita for the last verse. All the song arrangements are sophisticated, and the singers do them full justice; the “classics” by Hubert Parry, Charles Wood and John Ireland are beautifully interpreted. The capable accompanists are Marcus Wibberley, Joe Waggott, David Price, and William Drakett. The Portsmouth Cathedral acoustic and organ add to the excellence of the singing. Altogether an enjoyable musical experience: recommended.