This performance marks the first full recording of John Rutter's Psalmfest, a 50-minute work assembled from a group of shorter pieces (with a few new ones) for a performance in Texas in 1993. The reason is easy enough to see: the general love for Rutter comes from smaller pieces, unaccompanied or lightly accompanied, with a poetic text (which of course may include a Psalm), and for their general accessibility to choirs great and small, British and American and beyond. But Psalmfest is probably an underrated work. It's certainly accessible, even if an orchestra is needed; the original performance was given by the massed high-school choirs of Garland, Texas. It consists of smaller pieces, juxtaposed in such a way that you get an idea of Rutter's variety of approaches. Sample the subtle, reverential orchestral introduction to I will lift up mine eyes (Psalm 121, track two), which goes beyond Rutter's sometimes bland positive outlook into French choral territory. The program is rounded out by a trio of newer pieces, including the delightful pageantry of This is the day, composed for the wedding of Prince William and Kate Middleton in 2011. The definitive Rutter recordings are made by his handpicked Cambridge Singers, but the St. Albans Cathedral Choir and Abbey Girls Choir are fully competent here and manage an ingenious re-creation of the unusual antiphonal effects in the setting of Psalm 150 (track 12). Recommended for Rutter fans and even for his detractors.
AllMusic Review by James Manheim