In common with other Cathedrals and Churches across the globe, the season of Advent and Christmas is a time when Portsmouth Cathedral welcomes large numbers of people to services or concerts.
All the music on the disc was sung at cathedral Christmas carol services in 2008 and 2009 with one exception. ‘In Your image’ is not strictly a Christmas carol, but it speaks of the incarnation and of humanity’s relationship with God our Father through Christ His Son.
The ‘Advent Responsary’ is often sung at the start of Advent or Christmas carol services and this version weaves the advent hymn ‘Sleepers Wake’ within its textures. ‘Once in Royal’ adorns most churches’ celebrations and we use Sir David Willcock’s familiar harmonies and descant made famous by the King’s College Cambridge Carol of Nine Lessons and Carols. ‘Veiled in Darkness’ is a haunting carol speaking of the Advent hope of Christ’s Coming into the world whilst ‘Let us Light a Candle’ unveils the joy of the Child’s birth in Bethlehem.
‘Away in a Manger’, here arranged by David Hill (during his time as Organist of Winchester Cathedral) continues the story of the new born babe and is followed by Estonian-born Arvo Pärt’s highly stylised Hymn to the Virgin Mother. The promise of Mary, Mother of Jesus as foretold in the Old Testament is set to music by Howells with a beautiful bass solo line.
Franz Grüber’s famous ‘Silent Night’ returns to its simple origins through Christine Gymnn’s gentle setting. This is followed by the more boistrous ‘Good King Wenceslas‘.
The disc concludes with the magisterial medieval hymn, ‘Of the Father’s heart begotten’ followed by a fresh and jaunty arrangement of ‘Ding Dong merrily on high’.
(David Price, 2010)