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Epiphany is a tricky season musically, its best anthems often assimilated into Christmas services, leaving little to keep congregations going through January. Here Ross reclaims many of these ‘carols’, including Warlock’s contrasting Bethlehem Down and Benedicamus Domino, Howells’s Long, long ago, Judith Weir’s Illuminare, Jerusalem and Poulenc’s Videntes stellam. These come together with anthems by Byrd, Sheppard, Palestrina and Mouton to create an Epiphany that’s no pastel-coloured portrait of mother and child but something at once starker and brighter.
performances of the Renaissance repertoire are characteristically strong, though
Sheppard’s spacious Reges Tharsis lacks a certain ease and scope in its
delivery, tending to the matter-of-fact; but it’s in the 20th-century works that
Ross and his young singers come into their own. Fluid phrasing and expressive
diction bring out the folk roots of the Howells and Warlock, while the exposed
simplicity of I wonder as I wander and Berkeley’s I sing of a maiden is deftly
handled, especially by the impeccably blended top line. Bax’s Mater ora
filium makes a climactic closer, its episodic structure paced beautifully.
Classic Epiphany hymns (most of them in sometimes unexpected arrangements by
Ross himself) are a bonus, providing the supporting pillars for this
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