Discography

The years given are those of recording, not publication. Unless otherwise noted, the recordings are on CD.

The Choir of Westminster Cathedral

Lobo: Lamentations (2014, Hyperion)
Gorgeous music.
Byrd: The Three Masses (2013, Hyperion)
The second time in thirty years I had recorded these masses with countertenor David Gould. The recording setup was vocally taxing: the choir was in a square on the sanctuary which made it hard to hear, and unusually for Westminster Cathedral, a lot of very quiet singing was demanded.
Macmillan: Tenebræ Responsories (2012, Hyperion)
The responsories themselves are fantastic, but there’s a certain amount of lower-drawer sweepings (including recently-published early works) that is relatively uninteresting.
Miserere: A sequence of music for Lent, St Joseph, and the Annunciation (2011, Hyperion)
I only managed to be on half of this one.
Victoria: De Beata Maria Virgine & Surge propera (2010, Hyperion)
I share Cardinal Newman’s reservations about the Catholic preoccupation with Mary, but the upside is all the wonderful Song of Songs texts.
Palestrina: Missa Tu es Petrus & Missa Te Deum laudamus (2009, Hyperion)
I sang only in the Te Deum laudamus half of this recording, my first entry in the series of effortless polyphonic recordings that the choir records annually in late-night sessions.

Choir of Trinity Hall, Cambridge

The English Orpheus: Choral & Instrumental Music by Henry Purcell (2016, Priory Records)
I can’t really be objective about the first commercial recording to feature me extensively as a soloist. Full orchestral versions of Purcell favourites (with the strings of Orpheus Britannicus) make this a sumptuous listen.

English National Opera

Verdi: Macbeth (2013, Chandos)
Great fun to record; it was hard to avoid the giggles singing it in English.

Tenebræ

_Will Todd: The Call of Wisdom_ (2012, Signum Classics)
My Lord has come is a voice-wrecker, but worth it; sadly, Todd seems, like so many popular composers, indifferent to the nuances of the texts he sets, which robs many of his settings of significance.
Alexander Levine: The Divine Liturgy of St John Chrysostom (2012, Signum Classics)
Levine was a sympathetic presence in the recording sessions, and refreshingly lacking in that constant self-marketing that seems endemic in the current generation of popular composers. The music, however, did not have the grip of Rachmaninov.
A Tender Light (2011, Decca)
I recorded just one session of this. It was enough: as with so many popular choral composers, Mealor’s writing is not friendly to the voice.

The Gabrieli Consort

War Requiem (2013, Signum Classics)
My first full run of this achingly powerful work, with some great singing by Christopher Maltman.
Berlioz—Grande Messe des Morts (2011, Signum Classics)
Recorded in Wrocław with a choir of 200, immense orchestra and six brass bands, this is the loudest thing I have ever done.

The Cambridge Singers

The Sacred Flame (2009, Collegium COLCD134)
If you like your renaissance polyphony creamy-smooth, the Cambridge Singers are for you, and in pieces like Schütz’s Selig sind die Toten they are hard to beat. Contrapunctual precision is there too, exemplified in Palestrina’s Exsultate Deo. For me, however, it’s all a too unruffled: athletic challenges lack delighted acknowledgement, while melismata lack tension: one cannot, for example, hear much desire in Palestrina’s Sicut Cervus. This may be a performer’s bias; if you believe the music should speak for itself, this disc is close to as good as it gets.
A Christmas Festival (2008, Collegium COLCD133)
If the Cambridge Singers aren’t fresh enough for you, you’ll welcome Farnham Youth Choir. This disc has a good mixture of old and new music that makes it a pleasure to listen to as an album; I am only put off by Melanie Marshall, who notes are all pearls but whose lines have no necklace.
Messiah (2007, Collegium COLCD132)
Unashamedly modern, this recording will bear repeated listening more than most thanks to Rutter’s trademark polish and stylistic restraint. The LPO is matched by a beefed-up Cambridge Singers with plenty of power when needed, while never lacking in agility. I love Chris Purves’s combination of drama, clarity and beautiful tone; I am not so fond of Melanie Marshall’s pedantic diction.
Lighten our Darkness: Music For The Close Of Day (2006, Collegium COLCD131)
The beautifully blended and precise sound that John Rutter gets from the Cambridge Singers is perfect for the lulling Compline repertoire. One disk of motets suitable for compline; one of the plainsong service. Marooned on a wind-lashed rocky island, this would be the disc to listen to before blowing out one’s single candle for the night.
Gloria: The Sacred Music Of John Rutter (2005, Collegium CSCD515
Somehow I managed to last until 2005 without ever singing the Gloria. In fact, I lasted rather longer, as this is the classic recording, with a day’s worth of Rutter miscellania tacked on, which was doubly a joy to record, coming as it did in towards the end of my sojourn in Paris, when I was starved of good choral singing.
Sea Change (2004, Collegium CSACD901)
A collection of Richard Rodney Bennett’s choral music, most of it recorded for the first time. Rodney Bennett is woefully underrated as a composer, often dismissed for his early avant-garde style or later career as a jazz pianist, but he writes beautiful and undeniably English tonal music with a keen ear for the text. My favourite tracks are the luscious combination of choir and cello in A Farewell to Arms and the extraordinary semi-sung The Waves Come Rolling.
Mass of the Children (2002, 2003, Collegium COLCD129)
With a little effort by the listener, even Rutter’s more sugary writing, as in Mass of the Children, can be appreciated for what it is: a simple delight in goodness expressed by someone to whom composing comes as naturally as speaking. The rest of the disc shows that Rutter is underrated as a serious composer: his Come Down, O Love Divine is a powerful dark plea written at a difficult time for Westminster Abbey, for which it was commissioned.
The John Rutter Christmas Album (2002, Collegium CSCD510)
Captain Christmas does it like no-one else can. I’m only on the two specially recorded tracks, Dormi, Jesu and Sans Day Carol; the rest were, in the maestro’s word, “churn” from other discs.
Feel the Spirit (2001, Collegium COLCD128
As expected from the title, the disc contains a collection of spirituals, arranged for choir and orchestra by John Rutter, who also conducts. Some of the introductions make you wonder what you’re listening to, but it’s all gorgeous stuff. (I only sang on this half.) Unexpectedly, the disc also contains settings of Shakespeare songs by Rutter and George Shearing, and concludes with Hoagey Carmichael’s Skylark.

The Monteverdi Choir

Berlioz—Les Troyens (2003, Opus Arte DVD OA0900D)
The first complete performance in a single evening of this opera in the country of its composer’s birth was also broadcast live on French television. A superb performance by a good cast including one of the best choruses you’re ever likely to hear. The Monteverdi choir was joined by 40 French singers for the occasion, and despite unfortunate staging (opinions vary; some thought it excellent) the result was amazing.
Weber—Oberon (2002, Deutsche Grammophon 4756563)
Recorded after the Monteverdi Choir’s performance at the Théâtre du Châtelet in Paris in February 2002, Charles Workman, the tenor singing Sir Huon, was ill during the recording session. The role was finally recorded by the excellent young Jonas Kaufman.

La Nuova Musica

Handel: Dixit Dominus; Vivaldi: Dixit Dominus, In furore iustissimae irae (2012, Harmonia Mundi USA)
Furious and flashy, but David Bates’s joie de vivre and Lucy Crowe’s virtuosity make those virtues in this thrilling recording. (You wouldn’t believe it was the same band as on The Sacred Flame, vide supra.)

Armonico Consort

On Christmas Night (2011, Deux-Elles)
What I remember most about this recording was nearly being late for the evening session because I could not choose which biscuits to get from the extraordinary selection in M&S. There was a whole wall to choose from!
Naked Byrd Two (2010, Signum Classics)
A follow-up to the first disc with pieces from the concert programme of the same name that didn’t previously make the cut. The use of a real tennis court, freezing in February, for the recording, doesn’t seem to help much: the small group sounds if anything a bit more stretched than in the first recording. Why does easy listening always equal hard singing in classical music? This time, the non-naked bird on the cover is Cowper’s “Vanity”. The Independent gave it five stars, particularly enjoying the “Agnes Dei”.
Naked Byrd (2009, Signum Classics)
The Classic FM–friendly recording of the audience-friendly programme of the same name. The cover shows, rather inaccurately, “Girl with a pearl earring”. Unless you’ve made recordings like this yourself, you may be surprised to find out how few people are actually singing.

The Eric Whitacre Singers

Light and Gold (2010, Decca)
Arguably my second foray into the world of pop. Certainly, the concert we did directly before recording the disc had an atmosphere unique in my stage experience: I have never sensed an audience so clearly besotted. Like many famous people who trade on their personality and looks, Eric is engaging in person, and the non-signature tracks “The Stolen Child” and “Leonardo Dreams of His Flying Machine” are suggestions of what he can do when he values words more for their meaning than their sound. It won a Grammy in 2011.

Oxford University Press

The Oxford Choir—Carols for Choirs 5 (2011, OUP)
One of a pair of demo discs recorded in a lightning session. Possibly the highest ratio of finished recording to session time I’ve ever achieved.
Bob Chilcott—Choral Works 2 (2011, OUP)
One of a pair of demo discs recorded in a lightning session. Æsop’s fables are particularly fun.
Christmas Choral Highlights 3 (2009, OUP)
A demo disc from OUP, and seems to be a direct transcription of the best takes. It’s all recent music, and there are some good numbers. The recording sessions, directed by Christopher Robinson, produced by John Rutter and catered by JoAnne Rutter, were bliss. We worked so fast we finished a day early (out of two and a half reserved).

Humana

Humana la chorale (2004, Universal)
My first foray into the world of pop. “Inspired” by the success of the film Les Choristes, about a choir started in a tough boys’ school in the 1950s, some French producers decided that what the world wanted was a series of albums of famous songs performed by choir and piano. This first album contains French pop classics (plus one awful song written by the arranger). There was an excellent review (no longer online) from the Nouvel Observateur (21st October 2004) that made it all worthwhile:

Mal au chœur

Les Français adôôôôrent les voix. La preu-ve? Deux millions pratiqueraient le chant choral, tandis que sept millions d’entre eux se sont bousculés au cinéma pour voir (et revoir) «les Choristes». Des chiffres vertigineux qui n’ont pas manqué de donner des idées à quelques petits génies du tout-marketing: on signale donc l’arrivée chez les disquaires d’«Humana, la chorale. Les plus belles chansons françaises en chœur» (Universal) où des gens pourvus de « belles voix » (sopranos «angéliques», basses «viriles», etc.) taxidermisent «la Javanaise», «Et maintenant» ou «l’Aigle noir», et massacrent avec un sérieux hilarant «Alexandrie, Alexandra» ou «le Bal des Lazes» — rebaptisé illico par nos services «le Bal des Nazes». Mais ce disque involontairement burlesque pourrait bien devenir culte chez les fumeurs de moquette, qui devraient passer avec lui quelques soirées mémorables d’hiver.

The Choir of St John’s College, Cambridge

Elgar (2003, Naxos 8557288)
What a way to end: with one of the greatest 20th-century composers, and the favourite of outgoing director, Christopher Robinson.
Berkeley (2003, Naxos 8557277)
Penultimate disc in the Naxos series, Lennox Berkeley’s work deserves to be better known (and in particular to be better known than his son’s dreadful jangly stuff). The disc opens with the best number, Crux Fidelis, which seems to be published only as a photocopy of the manuscript.
Britten (1999, Naxos 8554791)
Second in the ten-disc Naxos series, this recording covers the highlights (Rejoice in the Lamb, Hymn to St Cecilia) and some less well known corners (A Hymn of St Columba) of Britten’s sacred repertoire.
Howells (1999, Naxos 8554659)
First in the immensely successful English Choral Music series, the recording centres on the Requiem, and includes the St Paul’s canticles, Collegium Regale mass and the wonderful Take Him, Earth, For Cherishing. Naxos don’t just know how to sell classical music: in Andrew Walton and Eleanor Thomason they have an excellent production team who inobtrusively and effortlessly recorded ten of the best discs the choir has ever made.
_Duruflé—Complete Choral Works (1998, Nimbus NI5599)
St John’s College is particularly associated with Duruflé’s Requiem: after hearing a performance directed by George Guest the composer agreed to mark two baritone passages as solos. The spirited performance of the unison Messe Cum Jubilo is also well worthwhile (and is the only piece on this disc that I sang).
Fear and Rejoice, O People (1998, Nimbus NI5589)
Yet another disc of Christmas and Advent music, but a pretty high class selection. A disc for those fed up with The Best Christmas Album Ever 17. I wasn’t in the choir that year, but was called back to boost the basses on the title track, and also got to join in with the catchy Out Of Your Sleep.
Mendelssohn—Church Music (1997, Nimbus NI5529)
The year that St John’s went German. Sadly, a lot of the music isn’t that great, nor is the performance inspired. I suspect this material has probably been better recorded by German choirs.
Ave Verum: Popular Choral Classics (1996, Regis Records DVD 6323 (PAL), 6364 (NTSC), Brilliant Classics CD 99081)
This is, to my knowledge, St John’s’ first son et lumière production. Sadly, the recording company went bankrupt shortly after the recording, and the masters were locked up with the rest of their assets. A few years later a CD was released, but it was not until 2003 that the DVD was issued. The choir you see is not quite the same as the choir you hear.
Let All the World in Every Corner Sing (1995, Lindenberg Boeken & Muziek)
Subtitled “Hymns for many occasions”, this disc is not an essential purchase. It was put out in record time, and we did a four-concert tour of Holland to promote it. Before we sang the hymns there were sermons and congregational singing. Hymns are, as most professional singers will admit, tough to sing, and I found them utterly unrewarding; the experience goes down as a lowlight of my musical career.
Set Me As A Seal (1995, Lindenberg Boeken & Muziek LBCD55)
An extravaganza of 20th-century greats comprising Copland’s In the Beginning, Walton’s The Twelve, Langlais’s Messe Solennelle and Finzi’s Lo, the Full Final Sacrifice. Walton’s Set Me As a Seal completes the disc, owing to support from the Walton Trust for the recording. Sadly, the college’s understandable eagerness to record after a bit of a drought in the late 80’s and early 90’s meant that this is another fine recording that is hard to obtain because the small publisher that made it is no longer in the recording business. This particular disc is still on sale from the College itself.
Advent Carols from St John’s (1994, Nimbus NI5414)
A recording in the shape of St John’s College Choir’s famous Advent carol service, broadcast every year on BBC Radio, and further afield. This recording even includes five of the usual eight lessons, plus a “congregation” rounded up from the Baron of Beef one July evening to record the Lord’s Prayer. Because it’s an Advent rather than a Christmas service there are some rarely heard gems on this disc; sadly, the producer, Geraint Lewis, was in a “one-take, one mic” phase, so the recording doesn’t really do justice to the choir or the music.
Tallis Organ & Choral Works (1993, Chandos CHAN0588)
Recorded at the same times as the Gibbons disc above, the Tallis disc took years to appear, but despite a rather more austere programme on the choral side it’s a much more convincing whole, including several pieces that include both choral and organ movements.
Gibbons Organ & Choral Works (1993, Chandos CHAN0973)
Gibbons verse anthems interspersed in his entire organ repertoire. The disc is excruciating to listen to all the way through, as the organ is recorded at a much higher volume than the choir, and at a different pitch. Just program the choir tracks into your player, and watch out for the stray organ run in thirds that made it on to the final cut.
O God, thou art my God (1993, Lindenberg Boeken & Muziek LBCD47)
A selection of psalms, each chanted and then sung as an anthem. Settings include Elgar’s magnificent Great is the Lord, Howells’s stirring Like as the Hart and probably the only recording of Vaughan Williams’s Lord, Thou hast been our refuge to feature an employee of the Milk Marketing Board playing the trumpet.
Mozart Requiem (1987, Chandos CHAN7059)
An undistinguished recording. (Francis Williams says: “I think you're a bit harsh about this recording. Not always well-balanced but I think it's actually pretty awesome.”)
Christmas Carols from St John’s (1987, Chandos CHAN7109)
Rereleased in 1998, this was recorded when I was a treble.
Masses by Byrd
(1987, EMI EMX2104) Rereleased with Tallis Missa Salve intemerata in 2000, this was my first recording as a treble (my stint coincided with a fallow patch).

The Gentlemen of St John’s

Music for Men’s Voices (2003, Priory PRCD 814)
The Anglican men’s voices repertoire may not be the genre’s crown jewel, but there are easily enough goodies in there to fill a disc. I hope that the rather inexperienced-seeming production team did justice to the choir.
Gently Does It (2003, Gentlemen of St John’s SJCR1012)
The long-awaited followup to ...Mix Well, with mostly new tunes.
Ca’ the Yowes (1996, Etcetera KTC1192)
One of the most knackering recording experiences of my career. To avoid building and road noise around the college chapel, we recorded at night, but had to stay up rather later than planned when a thunderstorm interrupted Britten’s Ballad of Little Musgrave and Lady Barnard. This collection of 20th-century folk song settings is beautifully engineered with a gorgeous creamy sound that belies the fact that I, for one, was utterly voiceless by the end of the recording sessions.
...Mix Well (1994, Gentlemen of St John’s SJCR1001)
The first CD made by the Gents (but their second recording, following 1985’s Jamming Gents, a cassette recording), ...Mix Well is a legend in choral circles, despite the fact that it’s rarely available except from the group itself. All the arrangements on the disc are by members of the group, and it runs the gamut of popular music from Cole Porter to Michael Jackson.

King’s College Choir, Cambridge

Rachmaninov—Vespers (1998, EMI Classics CDC5567522)
Purists may think an all-male Anglican choir recording this great Russian work is silly, but the transformation that came over the choir that summer as it learnt this great work (most of it was performed liturgically during the summer term) was extraordinary, helped by the half-Czech and fluent Russian-speaking bass, Honza Lochmann, a great friend from school, and also by the BBC Singers’ Russian coach. It was due to his presence in the choir, along with one or two other low basses, that the recording was made. As we learnt to pronounce the Church Slavonic, the sound became more and more Russian.

Clare College Choir, Cambridge

Choral Evensong from Clare College (2007)
Pure nostalgia, the repertoire that Tim Brown’s singers will remember. Recorded in June 2007 as an in-house venture, I was an extra “low bass”. Finally issued on the very day of Tim’s retirement, 4th September 2010, it’s not expertly produced, but makes a lovely memento.
Blessed Spirit (2000, Collegium COLCD127)
Subtitled Music for the soul’s journey, this disc presents a themed selection of music around the subject of death and resurrection. It’s eclectic, from Tavener’s searing Funeral Ikos (listen to the words!) through Holst’s undeservedly neglected The Evening Watch to Deep River in Norman Luboff’s sumptuous arrangement. A skeleton of plainsong from the requiem mass runs through the recording, taking full advantage of the spacious acoustic of Ely Cathedral’s Lady Chapel.

Winchester College Chapel Choir

Lead me, Lord (1990, magnetic cassette Alpha CACA551)
A recording of mostly Christmas music, made, as is traditional, in the sweltering heat of summer. Probably only of interest to fans of the school or the Quiristers.

Last updated 2017/05/01