Thus Angels Sung
£5.99 – £9.99
About this release
“There is absolutely no rhyme or reason behind the selection of pieces on this recording, and this is intentional. Every piece was chosen at random, simply because I happened to like them and wanted to record them.”
I have been lucky enough to have had a recording career that started over forty-five years ago, having made my first recording for His Master’s Voice, with King’s College Choir in 1967. Since then I have made some 180 recordings, stretching from black discs through tape cassettes, to CDs. Actually, I made my original demo recording on a wax disc, and this was sent to David Willcocks in Cambridge for his approval.
At the end of a recording career there are always pieces lurking at the bottom of the barrel that you wanted to record, but somehow they never seemed to fit into the scheme of things. So here are those ‘Odds & Ends’ and I have to admit they make a very disparate collection. The only pieces actually written for counter-tenor are the three songs by Malcolm Archer and the little Grace before Dinner by Christopher Moore. Other pieces have been transposed and rearranged to suit my voice.Read more
I’m sure Vaughan Williams would have written for counter-tenor had he lived longer. After all, he loved all things Elizabethan and the Tallis tune that he immortalised in his Fantasia would have been sung by an all-male choir. I remember singing Dirge for Fidele as a boy treble. Obviously, Britten had to be represented, as this recording was made in his Anniversary Year, but who would think of including Thomas Attwood? Once again, I hark back to my chorister days, when I sang both pieces, probably not very well. Attwood studied with Mozart, who bullied him, but there’s something of the Master in his music, and the result is quite touching.
The mediaeval world, apparently, believed that angels sang in the Alto register, so it seems appropriate to use the title Thus Angels Sung for such a collection.
To me, the choice of venue for a recording is most important. I detest singing in an anonymous, dreary studio, although I exempt the EMI Abbey Road Studios from this stricture.
A church is always infinitely preferable, away from traffic and aircraft noise. I don’t mind if it’s old and damp as long as there is some sort of atmosphere. Blythburgh church in Suffolk is ideal. When this recording was first proposed, I had reservations about recording in Portsmouth Cathedral. It was not a building that I knew and I imagined a lot of intrusive noise from the docks and shipping in general. But it has proved a wonderful place to record, with perfect acoustics and its own very special atmosphere. I am very grateful to have had the opportunity to work in this friendly place.
(James Bowman, 2013)
About the artists
The English counter-tenor, James (Thomas) Bowman, has been one of the world’s leading counter-tenors for nearly 30 years; his career spans opera, oratorio, contemporary music and solo recitals.
James Bowman was educated at New College, Oxford, receiving his Diploma in Education in 1964 and M.A. in History in 1967. He began singing as a chorister at Ely Cathedral and later went to New College, Oxford, where he was a member of the chapel choir. He also received vocal instruction in London from De Rentz and Manen.
As the result of an audition, James Bowman was invited by Benjamin Britten to sing at the opening concert of the Queen Elizabeth Hall in March 1967, and this marked his London debut. He was soon in demand on both the opera stage and the concert platform, appearing at Sadler’s Wells in 1967 (A Midsummer Night’s Dream), at Glyndebourne in 1970 (La Calisto), the English National Opera in 1971 (Semele), and at the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden in 1972 (Taverner). Among his numerous opera engagements abroad mention should be made of Paris (L’Opéra, L’Opéra Comique and Théatre des Champs Elysées), La Scala, Milan, La Fenice, Venice and the Festival of Aix en Provence. In Australia he has appeared at the Sydney Opera House and in the USA at San Francisco, Dallas and Santa Fe.
James Bowman’s concert career is equally wide-ranging; in Europe he is well known as a recitalist, and has a large following. In 1992 the French government honoured him with admission to ‘L’Ordre des Arts et des Lettres’ and he was awarded the Medal of Honour of the city of Paris in recognition of long-standing contribution to the musical life of the city. He has given the world premiere of many important contemporary compositions, including works by Benjamin Britten, Michael Tippett, Peter Maxwell Davies, Richard Rodney Bennett, Robin Holloway, Geoffrey Burgon, Michael Nyman and Alan Ridout. He was appointed a CBE in the 1997 Queen’s Birthday Honours.
Malcolm Archer is one of the world’s leading church musicians. He has enjoyed a distinguished career in cathedral music. Previous posts include Norwich, Bristol, Wells Cathedrals and most notably Director of Music at St. Paul’s Cathedral in London. He is now Director of Chapel Music at Winchester College, where he is responsible for the College’s ancient choral foundation; conducting the Chapel Choir and teaching the organ.
During his time at St. Paul’s Cathedral he directed the choir for several State services, including the Tsunami Memorial Service and the London Bombings Service. He also directed 80th Birthday Service for HM The Queen. Buckingham Palace invited him to compose a special anthem which he performed live on the BBC. His many broadcasts and recordings from Wells and St. Paul’s have received critical acclaim, and the Daily Telegraph voted his CD of Christmas music from St. Paul’s as Editor’s Choice. His choir at Winchester College has an enviable reputation through their many broadcasts on BBC Radio 3 and Classic FM. They tour international touring and have produced a number of highly praised recordings.
Malcolm Archer is much in demand as a choir trainer and choral and orchestral conductor, and he has directed concerts, workshops, courses and summer schools in various parts of the globe, as well as working with several leading orchestras. He is also the Musical Director of the Jean Langlais Festival in France. As an organ recitalist he has played in nine European countries, the USA and Canada, and his CDs include repertoire as diverse as J.S. Bach and Olivier Messiaen, as well as his own music.
As a composer, Malcolm Archer receives regular commissions from both sides of the Atlantic, and he has many published works. Recently he has composed works for the Southern Cathedrals Festival, St. Paul’s Cathedral, the Festival of the Sons of the Clergy and an anthem for the enthronement service of the Bishop of Winchester. He has also jointly edited two books for Oxford University Press: Advent for Choirs and Epiphany to All Saints for Choirs. His compositions are widely performed and greatly enjoyed for their approachable nature and singability.
He has been an adjudicator for the BBC Young Chorister of the year competition, and has over the years had 12 of his own choristers in the final including two winners, the most recent in 2015. Malcolm was a judge for the BBC Songs of Praise School Choirs competition for four years, becoming a chair of the judging panel for two of those competitions. He is also a frequent contributor to that programme as both interviewee and musical arranger. He has recently been a judge for the British Composer Awards.
Malcolm Archer has served as council member of the Royal College of Organists, and he is a member of the council of the Guild of Church Musicians. They recently awarded him the Fellowship for his services to church music over many years. In 2009, he was awarded the FRSCM (Fellow of the Royal School of Church Music) for his work in three cathedrals, and as a composer of church music.
- The Song of Angels - Orlando Gibbons
- Oculi Omnium - Christopher Moore
- Hide not thou thy Face - Richard Farrant
- Sion's Daughter - Malcolm Archer
- The Holy Boy - John Ireland
- My Sweet Darling - William Byrd
- I Saw a Maiden - Edgar Petman
- Lullaby - Cyril Scott
- Sweet and Low - Malcolm Williamson
- When Jesus Christ was yet a child - Malcolm Archer
- Drop, Drop Slow Tears - Malcolm Archer
- The Bellman's Song - Malcolm Archer
- Evenfall - Humphrey Clucas
- Dirge for Fidele - Ralph Vaughan Williams
- The Trees They Grow So High - Benjamin Britten
- The Rain it Raineth Every Day - Charles Villiers Stanford
- How Should I Your True Love Know - Roger Quilter
- Where Corals Lie - Edward Elgar
- O Nata Lux - Thomas Tallis
- Corpus Christi Carol - Benjamin Britten
- The Call - Ralph Vaughan Williams
- Turn Thy Face From My Sins - Thomas Attwood
- Come, Holy Ghost - Thomas Attwood
Catalogue number: CR019
Counter-tenor James Bowman
Piano / Organ Malcolm Archer
Cover Image Lynne Jayne Jenkins
Photography Tom Kuglin
Engineering Adaq Khan
Mastering Adaq Khan
Producer Andrew King
Creative Director John Bevan
Executive Producer Adrian Green
Recorded 28, 29, 31 August, 2012, 28 August, 2013
Venue Croydon Minster, London
Total Duration 56 mins