Andrew Nethsingha conducting the choir © Ben Ealovega

Signum Records | 15th April 2022 | SIGCD707

Andrew Nethsingha and The Choir of St John’s College, Cambridge, release Eastertide Evensong, their second live Evensong album following the success of their Ash Wednesday recording. Evensong is the foundation of the choir’s output, as they sing six Evensong services per week throughout term time. The recording is structured in a traditional Evensong format, including anthems, psalms, canticles, prayers, bible readings and organ music.

Andrew Nethsingha, Director of The Choir of St John’s College, Cambridge, said: “I’ve been involved in making music for around 10,000 Evensongs in my lifetime so far! This service from 2018 sticks in my mind as being particularly special. There was a great frisson and sense of occasion – having hundreds of thousands listening live on the radio will have helped! Evensong provides a timeless framework for music of many periods – here we include a wonderful variety from the 16th century to the present day. 

“As time goes on, I become more and more keen on live recordings – I love being able to prepare repertoire really thoroughly, so that the music sits very comfortably in people’s voices. Then the BBC red light comes on and one has the confidence to be spontaneous, take risks and create a unique performance. That is harder to achieve in studio conditions with multiple takes. The singers on this recording were a particularly fine group. One of the altos, for instance, went on to win the Kathleen Ferrier Award a couple of years later.

“I’m keen to share my great love for the beauty of Evensong and the powerful effect it can have on all people – religious believers and non-believers alike.”

This recording opens with Julian Anderson’s My beloved spake, a work written in 2006 using text from the Song of Songs which is particularly apt for spring and for Eastertide. Psalm chants by John Goss, Charles Hylton Stewart and Charles Villiers Stanford are performed in the Eastertideservice, chosen by Nethsingha for being “masters of their craft”. A particular highlight of the album is the inclusion of Herbert Howells’ Gloucester Service setting of the Magnificat and Nunc Dimittis which was written in 1946, shortly after Howells had served as Acting Organist at St John’s during the war.

Towards the end of the service, we hear John Taverner’s Dum transisset Sabbatum, set to a text of the same name which was originally prescribed to be sung every day during Easter Week. We hear Taverner’s first setting of this text (he later composed a second) which was written in the early 16th century and spans three octaves within a five-part polyphonic texture. The service also includes Preces and Responses composed by Kenneth Leighton and concludes with the Finale for solo organ from Charles-Marie Widor’s Symphonie No. 6, which Nethsingha refers to as “one of the most exuberant works in the repertoire”.

The Choir’s first live Evensong album, Ash Wednesday, marked the start of Lent and the forty days leading up to Jesus’ crucifixion. Released in 2020, it was deemed “the most glorious, glorious music-making” (Jeremy Summerly on BBC Radio 3, Record Review). This second Evensong album follows the first, celebrating another major event in the liturgical calendar: the Eastertide celebration of Christ’s Resurrection.

The album includes booklet notes written by Andrew Nethsingha, reflecting on the significance of Evensong and the works included in this recording. To view the booklet notes, please click here.

The album will be available from 15th April 2022 on Signum Records.