The Choir of St. George's Chapel, Windsor Castle

Sir William Henry Harris: Choral Music

(CD - Naxos #8570148)

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From 1933 to 1961, William Henry Harris served British royalty as organist at St. George's Chapel in Windsor Castle, and he composed a large amount of organ and choral music for the many services under his direction. Later knighted, but known affectionately to his choristers as "Doc H," Harris acquired a reputation for composing solidly crafted and conservative anthems, 12 of which are presented on this 2006 release in Naxos' series of English Church Music. The most familiar of these pieces -- composed in the manner of Hubert Parry's choral works -- are Faire is the heav'n and Bring us, O Lord God, though most are infrequently performed, and some appear for the first time on CD. In reverent performances by the Choir of St. George's Chapel, directed by Timothy Byram-Wigfield and accompanied on organ by Roger Judd, Harris' music is consistently devotional and quite gentle in character; and there is an unexpected intimacy to these sacred pieces that seems better suited to quiet Anglican services than to the official ceremonies for which they were used. The performances by men and boys reflect English practices of choral singing dating back to Tudor times, for which Harris felt a particular fondness; and his settings of that period's great poets -- Edmund Spenser, John Donne, and George Herbert, to name but three -- also fits with his nostalgia for the Renaissance and love of ecclesiastical and royal traditions. The sound of this recording is pleasant and generally clear, though a little soft and subdued, and the choir is seldom truly loud, perhaps to counteract the blurring effect of the chapel's highly resonant acoustics.

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