Cathedrals around England have their own choirs with their own traditions, and this disc presents some characteristic work from one of the lesser-known among them, the Lincoln Cathedral Choir. It differs from the general run of English choral discs in several respects. First, the cathedral is dedicated to the worship of the Virgin Mary, and music on the disc consists of hymns, anthems, carols, and other short vocal works (plus one organ work at the end, by Flor Peeters) devoted to her. It's an uncommonly interesting and well-chosen program, even for listeners not particularly aligned with the religious aspect. The music ranges from chant (framing the settings of the Magnificat here, according to the cathedral's own traditions) to contemporary British compositions of various kinds, with stops along the way in the medieval era and the Baroque (Hieronymus Praetorius and a section of the Pergolesi Stabat Mater) and a more extended stay in the late nineteenth century, with extremely nuanced performances of Bruckner's Ave Maria and a less familiar one by Camille Saint-Saëns. The program offers plenty to think about in terms of the significance of Mary in various phases of history. She seems, for example, to push the late Romantics over the edge into the mystical. The disc might even be used in a college or university course. Lovers of the sound of English choral singing will also find Hail Mary of interest; unlike the all-boy choirs of other institutions, this one contains girls on some tracks. The result is a variety of sounds beyond the hyper-pure norm. The sound is very clear, never ponderous. For anyone fascinated by the Marian theme or just in love with choral music, Hail Mary will offer something distinctive.
AllMusic Review by James Manheim
|Magnificat and Nunc Dimittis, for chorus|