James Bowman: Thus Angels Sung | Convivium Records International
On this record
Click track titles to listen to previews of all tracks on this record
  1. 1The Song of Angels
    Orlando Gibbons
  2. 2Oculi Omnium
    Christopher Moore
  3. 3 Hide not thou thy Face
    Richard Farrant
  4. 4Sions Daughter
    Malcolm Archer
  5. 5The Holy Boy
    John Ireland
  6. 6My Sweet Darling
    William Byrd
  7. 7I Saw a Maiden
    Edgar Petman
  8. 8Lullaby
    Cyril Scott
  9. 9Sweet and Low
    Malcolm Williamson
  10. 10When Jesus Christ was yet a child
    Malcolm Archer
  11. 11Drop Drop Slow Tears
    Malcolm Archer
  12. 12The Bellmans Song
    Malcolm Archer
  13. 13Evenfall
    Humphrey Clucas
  14. 14Dirge for Fidele
    Ralph Vaughan-Williams
  15. 15The Trees They Grow So High
    Benjamin Britten
  16. 16The Rain it Raineth Every Day
    Charles Villiers-Stanford
  17. 17How Should I Your True Love Know
    Roger Quilter
  18. 18Where Corals Lie
    Edward Elgar
  19. 19O Nata Lux
    Thomas Tallis
  20. 20Corpus Christi Carol
    Benjamin Britten
  21. 21The Call
    Ralph Vaughan Williams
  22. 22Turn Thy Face From My Sins
    Thomas Attwood
  23. 23Come Holy Ghost
    Thomas Attwood

Thus Angels Sung

James Bowman, Malcolm Archer

  • Catalogue
  • Composer
  • Counter-Tenor
    James Bowman
  • Organist
    Malcolm Archer
  • Creative Dir
    John Bevan
  • Exec Producer
    Adrian Green
  • Engineering
    Adaq Khan
  • Mastering
    Adaq Khan
  • Cover Photo
    Lynee Jayne Jenkins
  • Photography
    Tom Kuglin
  • Producer
    Andrew King
  • Genres

Thus Angels Sung

Convivium Records is delighted to announce an exclusive career spanning collection by James Bowman, presented with Malcolm Archer.

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.

I’ve always loved Elgar, but he wrote nothing for counter-tenor, so I’ve taken the liberty of including the lovely ‘Where corals lie’ from Sea Pictures. I wonder what Dame Clara Butt would make of this. Similarly, having been brought up as a cathedral chorister in Ely Cathedral on Stanford’s church music, I wanted to include him, and the little song from Twelfth Night seemed ideal.

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

James Bowman has been one of the world’s leading counter-tenors for over forty years; his career spans Opera, Oratorio, Contemporary music and solo recitals. He began singing as a Chorister at Ely Cathedral and later entered New College, Oxford with a Choral scholarship. After leaving Oxford, he joined the choir of Westminster Abbey.

As the result of an audition, he was invited by Benjamin Britten to sing at the opening concert of the new Queen Elizabeth Hall in London in March 1967, and this marked his London début. 

He was soon in demand on both the Opera stage and the concert platform, appearing at the Aldeburgh Festival and Sadlers Wells in 1967 (A Midsummer Night’s Dream), at Glyndebourne in 1970 (La Calisto), the English National Opera in 1971 (Semele) and the Royal Opera in 1977 (Taverner).

Among his numerous opera engagements abroad, mention should be made of Paris (L’Opéra, L’Opéra Comique, Le Théâtre du Châtelet, Le Théâtre des Champs-Elysées), La Scala, Milan, La Fenice, Venice and the Festival of Aix-en-Provence. In Australia he has appeared at the Sydney and Melbourne Opera houses and in the USA at Lincoln Center, Carnegie Hall, the Kennedy Center in Washington, as well as Dallas, San Francisco and Santa Fe.

His concert career is equally wide-ranging. In Europe he is well-known as a recitalist, with a large following. He has sung at every major festival in France and in 1992 the French government honoured him with admission to ‘L’Ordre des Arts et des Lettres’. In the same year he was awarded the Medal of Honour of the City of Paris.

James Bowman has made over 150 recordings with all the major record labels, under such directors as Britten, Harnoncourt, Mackerras, Leppard, Hogwood, Brüggen and Pinnock. He has recorded Messiah four times, under Willcocks, Koopman, Dorati and Parrott. Many of his recordings have been for Hyperion, recording all the Purcell Odes, Church music and Solo songs, as well as various solo discs of music by Bach, Handel, Vivaldi, Pergolesi, Hasse, Domenico Scarlatti and Dowland.

James Bowman has given the world première of many important contemporary compositions, including works by Benjamin Britten, Michael Tippett, Peter Maxwell Davies, Richard Rodney Bennett, Robin Holloway, Geoffrey Burgon, Michael Nyman, Alan Ridout and Tariq O’Regan. In May 1996 he received the Honorary Degree of Doctor of Music from the University of Newcastle-upon-Tyne, and was made CBE in the 1997 Queen’s Birthday Honours. He is also an Honorary Fellow of New College, Oxford and in October 2000 became a Gentleman of Her Majesty’s Chapel Royal, St. James’s Palace.

More recently, James has been a member of the Jury for the Kathleen Ferrier Awards, and during 2009 he was President of the Festival de Wallonie in Belgium. In 2010 he was presented with ‘A Lifetime Award for Services to Early Music’ by the York Early Music Festival. In May 2011 he made his farewell to the London concert platform with a sold-out recital at London’s Wigmore Hall, singing Purcell and Handel. However, he still appears occasionally at venues away from the capital.