In its short period of existence, the Choir of Merton College, Oxford, has risen to the top of British choral groups, rivaling some ensembles that have been around for centuries. Formed in 2008, the group has received plaudits from the leading critics and music magazines for two CDs on the Delphian label, In the Beginning, which was released in 2011, and this 2012 album, Advent at Merton. Boasting a broad repertoire that extends from Renaissance to contemporary music, the choir is just as likely to be singing modern works by James MacMillan and Judith Weir as they are to perform the more traditional fare of William Byrd or Michael Praetorius. Indeed, that is the case with this Advent program, which consists of hymns, antiphons, and motets in an even mix of periods and styles, with the only considerations being the seasonality and the beauty of the music. Led by director Benjamin Nicholas and organist Peter Phillips, the 33 male and female voices produce a radiant blend that is capable of great purity as well as lush harmonies, and their mellifluous singing is heard to best advantage in the a cappella tracks, where the exposed counterpoint displays the group's precise intonation and clear diction. To celebrate Advent or to simply enjoy a splendid album of choral favorites, this disc is highly recommended.
Share this page
AllMusic Review by Blair Sanderson