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Eton Choirbook & Robert White

Browne, J: Stabat Mater
Cornyshe: Salve Regina
Davy: In Honore Summae Matris
Fawkyner: Gaude rosa sine spina
Lamb, W: Magnificat

The Choir of Christ Church Cathedral, Stephen Darlington

Avie 2167

Two distinguished CDs from Avie & Signum of lesser-known early English sacred music; something different for Christmas amongst all the Messiahs...

The Eton Choirbook is one of the most valuable repositories of this important oeuvre of the early 1500s, made more widely known in revelatory early LPs by The Purcell Consort of Voices/Grayston Burgess, and latterly recorded extensively by The Sixteen.

This new disc from Christ Church Cathedral, Oxford, is a worthy addition to the discography of this British treasure. Lovely singing, including notable treble voices, and thorough documentation (Timothy Symons) in a richly illustrated booklet [Avie AV2167].

White - Hymns, Psalms and Lamentations

Christe qui lux es et dies I
Ad te levavi oculos meos
Exaudiat te Dominus
Dominus, Miserere mei, Deus Christe qui lux es et dies IV
Domine, quis habitabit III
Manus tuae fecerunt me, Lamentations (a6)


Signum - SIGCD134

A little later was Robert White (c.1538 – 1574) featured by Signum in a splendid disc sung by Gallicantus, a new six-voice group sprung from the ranks of the choir Tenebrae, its name signifying cock-crow, the renewal of life before daybreak ! Again, as is the way generally with this music, scholarly notes by Sally Dunkley in a well illustrated booklet with texts in Latin and English [Signum SIGCD134].

There is some danger that unaccompanied choral music can wash over you with a generalised pleasant "holy" feeling. For readers who want to penetrate further beyond its superficial beauties, a further attraction of this music for those who have quality sound reproduction facilities connected to their computers, is that many of the scores are readily available on line from free sources.

For such very intricate music it is valuable to be able to play and replay the music whilst following the scores, and doing so will increase your respect for these composers and the specialist musicians who devote their lives to interpreting them. Try clicking my links to access the .pdf files of Browne's Stabat Mater and White's Ad te levavi.

Dialogues of Sorrow

Coprario: From Songs of Mourning
Dering: And the King was Moved; Contristatus est David
Ramsey: When David heard; What Tears, dear Prince?
How are the mighty fallen; Sleep, fleshy birth
Tomkins: When David Heard; Then David mourned
Vautor: Melpomene Bewail
Ward: Weep Forth your Tears
Weelkes: O Jonathan; Woe is me; When David Heard


Elizabeth Kenny (lute)

Signum SIGCD0210

A second disc by Gallicantus has a dozen songs of unrelieved misery. It is hard to visualise the project meeting which decided to put together these Passions on the Death of Prince Henry (1612). They are well done, and welcomed in the Independent's Arts-Entertainment section. A little variety is interposed with solo and duo songs accompanied (very reticently) by lutenist Elizabeth Kenny, soprano Amy Moore the most spirited. But a few of them goes a long way...

Peter Grahame Woolf

Image: Score of Browne's Stabat Mater