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News: Through the day receives favourable reviews

Through the day - favourite anthems from Guildford Cathedral, recorded last year, has been receiving favourable reviews.

This is a substantial programme, splendidly sung by Guildford Cathedral Choir, directed by either Katherine Dienes-Williams (boys and men or boys, girls and men) or the now departed David Davies (girls and men). There is a nice mix of a cappella and accompanied numbers; the Bairstow, Stanford and Ireland sounding powerful and vibrant, the Howells grabbing the emotions especially. Seldom have I heard this cathedral organ sound more impressive, just listen to the Tubas at the start of the Parry track. Whether there is sound enhancement matters not, the choir is in magnificent voice and the recorded perspective the best ever, even compared with the pre-acoustic plaster sound of the Guild Records era. The top line is always strong and clear where needed and the girl v boy spotters can test their voice recognition powers, because the two groups happen to alternate in a random way, then are combined for the first and last works. They key is in the booklet. A couple of organ solos would have been welcome, taking advantage of the organ being so strikingly well-tuned and in such superb voice.

Roger Tucker
Cathedral Music - May 2010

Nervous marketing still has it that the lead-in to any miscellany CD should be something so popularist that it makes Classic FM seem like connoisseurs of the obscure. With recordings by everyone from King's to the Abbey, you need to move on from the ubiquitous 'I was glad' to discover the real splendours revealed by Katherine Dienes-Williams, prototype UK cathedral female master of the choristers at Guildford.

She shares the playing and conducting honours with her deputy, David Davies, who has since departed for a recital and research career in America, and gives the accompaniment of the title track, the lilting carol-like 'Through the day', to organ scholar Alex Berry (just the sort of genrosity needed to encourage the next generation). This particular anthem is one of two from Guildford predecessor, Philip Moore, the second, 'All wisdom cometh from the Lord', being an ingenious, highly rhythmic setting from Ecclesiasticus, with a sublime conclusion, and making up the biggest canvas (8mins 31secs) on a recording with total vocal resources of 9 men, 13 boys and 19 girls (more proof that recruiting girls is easier than boys?).

There is no mention on the CD sleeve of Guildford Cathedral's fine organ (Rushworth and Dreaper/Harrison and Harrison, 76 speaking stops), an instrument which, like Topsy, just grew after the ill thought-out original provision for only a mobile choir organ in this modern church (consecrated 1961).

A New Zealander, like Dame Gillian Weir, Dienes-Williams was organist at another 20th century cathedral, Liverpool's Roman Catholic Metropolitan, for a year. She is a composer herself, and is an expert on modern liturgy. But, welcomingly, she has made room here for two Tudor polyphonic master-works by Philips and Gibbons, the 'oh save me' evocations of the latter being particulary poignant, and contrasting with the florid and urgent alleluias of its companion.

The same intensity is found in the Bruckner, but nowhere more so than in the prime offering.

The rendering of John Ireland's 'Greater love hath no man' is the ultimate combination of piety and humanity; its gut-wrenching solos cause nerves to tingle, a favourable comparison to what is still the benchmark on John Birch's 1960s Chichester Cathedral Choir recording.

Stanford, Wood and Howells provide a fairly staple diet, but calling out for apostolic worth are the two Bairstow items (including the signature 'Let all mortal flesh'), pus james Macmillan's pentecostal anthem, which, despite its individual voice, bears more than a passing tribute to John Tavener. Some hypnotic and very familiar Rutter provides a quiet prelude to a final grand hoovering up (if you'll pardon the pun) with Dyson: the inspiring D major Magnificat.

Joe Riley
Organist's Review - May 2010

The CD is available online from ScoreStore Music Limited and from the Cathedral Gift and Book Shops. For mail order, please download and fill in an order form (PDF). The order form contains the play list.

All proceeds from sales of 'Through the day' go to Guildford Cathedral's Music Development Foundation.

Added Thursday 13th May 2010