Anyone looking for a fine mix of traditional carols and less familiar but essential Christmas music will find that this 2007 release by Andrew Nethsingha and the Gloucester Cathedral Choir is well-balanced in its program, highly polished in its performances, and satisfying for its splendid sound. Spanning five centuries, I Saw Three Ships opens with Jean Mouton's "Nesciens Mater," a four-part canon from the Renaissance, and from there covers many periods and styles of choral music, including late Romantic, modern, and contemporary settings of European noëls. The tone of most of these pieces is reverent and reflective, with a predominance of sacred motets, either for a cappella voices or choir with organ accompaniment in the more robust anthems; yet there are also a few festive secular numbers, such as "We Wish You a Merry Christmas" and "Deck the Hall," and many of these selections are presented in lively arrangements from the popular Oxford Book of Carols. Nethsingha and his ensemble of men and boys perform in a refined ecclesiastical style, with crisp enunciation and pure tone, and the choir is quite clear and agile in its counterpoint. Avie's recording is reasonably close-up and captures details without sacrificing the natural luster of Gloucester Cathedral's highly reverberant acoustics.
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AllMusic Review by Blair Sanderson
|Vespers (All-Night Vigil), for alto, tenor & chorus, Op. 37|