ECORDINGS are churned out ever more furiously, it seems, and they are widely accessible in ever more varied formats. In a sweeping sea of music, streaming and otherwise, it has become increasingly difficult for an album to stand out.
One recent album that definitely stands out is Sacred Treasures of England, released in February 2017 by the London Oratory Schola Cantorum Boys Choir.
This prestigious choir sings Mass weekly at Brompton Oratory, offers frequent concerts, and tours regularly. Beyond their normal regimen of liturgies, concerts, and travels, the choir also recorded the soundtracks for the Lord of the Rings films.
HIS ALBUM boasts fourteen tracks from the English Tudor era, including motets by William Byrd, Thomas Tallis, John Sheppard, and Peter Philips and the Missa Euge bone of Christopher Tye. There are many glorious moments among these fourteen tracks. For the sake of concision, I will mention only three.
1. First is the intonation of the Agnus Dei in Tye’s Mass. The entrance of each voice in each of the three strophes is uncommonly pure and richly prayerful.
2. A second memorable moment is the conclusion of Robert Parsons’ Ave Maria. The closing notes of this piece are utterly luminous.
3. Finally, two settings of the Easter text Haec dies are offered—one by Sheppard and the other by Byrd. The Byrd track, in particular, makes for fun listening and has elicited a smile from me on multiple listenings.
What makes this album stand out, for me, is not only the quality of the pieces featured. To be sure, the selection of the Mass and motets is superb, gathering together some of the finest of the English choral patrimony. More than this, however, it is the truly masterful execution of this beautiful music that so distinguishes the recording.
HARLES COLE has directed the Schola since 2012. A frequent faculty member at the annual CMAA Sacred Music Colloquia, Cole was, himself, a chorister at Westminster before winning scholarships at Ampleforth College, Exeter College, Oxford, and Westminster Cathedral.
In the introductory notes accompanying the CD, Cole writes:
The boys you hear in this recording rehearse every day before school and at various points throughout the school day. As choristers, they show an extraordinary dedication to the Church’s liturgy which they serve, immersing themselves in the challenge of music of such extraordinary quality and purity, for the greater glory of God. It is a pleasure to take this wonderful opportunity to thank them for their efforts, the fruits of which we hope that you will enjoy in this recording.
The experience of a chorister at the London Oratory School is, I suspect, exceptional.
TTENDEES of Sacra Liturgia UK in 2016 were treated to a live performance of the London Oratory Boys Choir. That concert featured a number of the pieces, including the Missa Euge bone, now available on this recording.
Our readers in the United States will have the opportunity to hear the choristers in person when they go on tour next month. As reported on these pages last week, the Schola Cantorum will be visiting Boston, New York, and Washington, DC in late October.
The tour consists of three Masses and two concerts:
Cambridge, MA • October 22, 2017 • St. Paul’s, Harvard Square • 11 AM Sung Mass
Cambridge, MA • October 22, 2017 • St. Paul’s, Harvard Square • 3 PM Concert
New York City • October 26, 2017 • Church of St. Vincent Ferrer • 7:30 PM Concert
Washington, DC • October 28, 2017 • St. Thomas Apostle Church • 7 PM Concert
Washington, DC • October 29, 2017 • Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception • 4:30 PM Sung Mass
These live performances are to be as highly recommended as their album, Sacred Treasures of England.