As an anthology of British collegiate choral singing, this collection, featuring the Choir of Jesus College Cambridge, works reasonably well. The choir is made up of two groups, the all-adult (undergraduate) College Choir and the all-male (men and boys) Chapel Choir. They come together on on a few pieces, including the final Blessed Be the God & Father by Samuel Sebastian Wesley. That's a magnificent British warhorse, but it doesn't really fit the album's theme, and that theme, rather than the singing, is the prime attraction here. The program consists, as the subtitle "Sacred Songs of Love" indicates, of pieces with texts using biblical love imagery, in all but a few cases from the Song of Solomon. That provides an unusual opportunity to hear a relatively small set of textual ideas refracted through a great variety of musical styles from the Renaissance to the present. Conductor Mark Williams avoids the sentimental John Rutter vein, and his 20th and 21st century pieces, including four by the underrated Howard Skempton, are a concise and even sometimes experimental lot. It may come as a surprise to find how many composers from the modern era have gravitated toward these texts, which offer the composer the chance to interpret them in various ways, from innocent (to the Nigra sum setting of Pablo Casals, who is indeed the Spanish cellist despite the erroneous life dates given in the track list) to sensuous to mystical. All these rest on a foundation of Renaissance settings, and the whole is spiced with late Romantic works and a few organ pieces. A novel choral recital, with fine sound on the choir's home ground.
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AllMusic Review by James Manheim
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