The Choir of Clare College, Cambridge, is not one of the big names among the top British collegiate choirs, but it has made some fine recordings and is coming on strong. The present album was launched with a U.S. tour, suggesting that the choir is seeking wider attention. At any rate, it's a strong example of its seasonal type. The program presents a selection of music for Advent, with polyphonic pieces framed by pieces of chant as if in a liturgical usage. The polyphonic pieces, however, come from different periods of music history, from William Byrd in the late 16th century to John Rutter and Roderick Williams in the present day. The music is predominantly British; there are some divagations into German and Russian music, but the flavor of British tradition is strong. And that's where this young choir excels: music by the likes of Herbert Howells is turgid if performed dutifully, but there's a certain level of enthusiasm here that makes it work. The choir and conductor Graham Ross combine this enthusiasm with a clean sound, and Ross' presence as composer (track 17) and arranger as well as conductor helps give the program a pleasing wholeness. Rutter serves as producer here, and although that's certainly not his best-known role, he executes it admirably (as well he might, given his long record of sweating the details of sound in space), knitting together recording sessions from two different times and two different English churches. A fine addition to any shelf of holiday music from an up-and-coming English choir.
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AllMusic Review by James Manheim
|All-Night Vivil, Op. 37|