Andrew Nethsingha and the Choir of St John’s College, Cambridge, present new album The Psalms, celebrating music at the heart of the choir’s identity
Album also marks Nethsingha’s 15th anniversary as Director of Music at St John’s
Andrew Nethsingha conducting the Choir of St John’s College, Cambridge © Ben Ealovega
Signum Records | 16 September 2022 | SIGCD712
Andrew Nethsingha and The Choir of St John’s College, Cambridge, present their new album The Psalms, celebrating music integral to the identity of the Choir. Recorded in the beautiful acoustic of St John’s Chapel, Cambridge, the album allows listeners to immerse themselves in the beautiful music that the Choir perform daily during term-time as part of their Evensong services.
The album also coincides with Nethsingha’s 15th anniversary as the Director of Music at St John’s. During his time with the Choir, he has committed himself to preserving their iconic sound and tradition whilst simultaneously propelling them into the future. His work with the choir extends from the multiple contemporary compositions supported each year, commissioning and highlighting the work of composers both new and established, to the move to make St John’s the first Oxbridge choir to include male and female voices in both the children and the adults, introduced earlier this year under his leadership.
Andrew Nethsingha, Director of Music at St John’s College, Cambridge, said: “Psalm-singing, one of the most subtle forms of choral singing, is at the heart of the St John’s choir’s musical identity. The psalms inform everything else we perform – technically, musically, emotionally. In 1977 George Guest made a deeply moving Argo LP ‘Psalms of Consolation and Hope’, one of my favourite choral albums. All George’s successors – Christopher Robinson, David Hill and myself – have sought to continue the distinctive St John’s style of psalm-singing. The chemistry which each choir-director has with their singers is unique. I have written extensively about my own thoughts on psalm-singing, and on the beauty of the words and music, in the booklet notes; I hope these notes will enhance the listener’s enjoyment and involvement in the album. The Psalms affect listeners in different ways. They can be profound and transformational not only for Christians; some psalms can be entrancing and healing.”
Exploring settings of psalms from the eighteenth century through to the twentieth by composers steeped in the English choral tradition, the repertoire on this recording has been chosen and ordered carefully in terms of contrast and key relationships. Featuring psalm chants from composers such as Percy Whitlock, Henry Walford Davies and Thomas Attwood, the album also features music from a former Director of Music at St John’s, Christopher Robinson, with his settings of Psalm 2 (Why do the heathen so furiously rage) and Psalm 148 (O Praise the Lord of Heaven).
This release also marks the latest in a series of recordings that celebrates the music performed in Evensong, with previous releases Eastertide Evensong and Ash Wednesday focusing on live recordings of their Evensong services. Both releases were critically acclaimed, with their Ash Wednesday recording dubbed as “glistening and ethereal throughout” (BBC Music Magazine).
The album includes booklet notes written by Nethsingha, reflecting on the significance of psalms to the choir’s musical identity and how they inform everything else they perform – the album booklet can be read here. The album is released on 16 September 2022 on Signum Records.