Indra Hughes / Musica Sacra

Christmas Spectacular

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Musica Sacra's Christmas Spectacular is a straighforward program of seasonal choral works that figure prominently in the Auckland group's annual Christmas concerts. Opening with John Rutter's affable Gloria, and continuing with his best-known carol, What Sweeter Music, the album seems strongly flavored with his brand of mellow and accessible music, reinforced by his settings of Mary's Lullaby (a modern variant of the fifth century hymn, Of the Father's Love Begotten) and the Welsh favorite, Deck the Halls. Indeed, there is a strong traditional English feeling to the album, with the inclusion of David Willcocks' arrangements of O Come, All Ye Faithful, Unto Us is Born a Son, and Hark! The Herald Angels Sing, as well as selections by Hubert Parry and Ralph Vaughan Williams that add to the distinctly British quality of this CD. The choir performs arrangements by a fellow New Zealander, Michael Leighton-Jones, but his Christmas Medley for brass and choral arrangement of The Holly and the Ivy add less of a national flavor than a cosmopolitan familiarity, which fits in easily with the other pieces. Indra Hughes' direction of the group is admirable for his close attention to details, and he clearly worked tirelessly to get the singers to execute the precise syncopations in Ding, Dong! Merrily on High, a high point of the disc. The support of the APO Brass and Percussion and organists John Wells and Nicholas Forbes also make this a remarkably tight and lively performance, and the concentrated efforts of the singers and instrumentalists give this presentation a satisfying cohesion.

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