Dreaming Of Christmas
Wells Cathedral Choir
Director: Malcolm Archer
Organ: Rupert Gough
Dreaming Of Christmas
It all seemed so perfect. We had the cathedral, we had the choir, we had the recording dates, and we had all the music carefully rehearsed, since we were to sing it in our annual concert of Christmas Music by Candlelight. We even had an arrangement of "I"m dreaming of a white Christmas". But something was missing. Of course, the snow! You can"t have a white Christmas without snow. So we tried to find a good photo of the Cathedral in the snow, but to no avail. Then our colleagues in the geography department at Wells Cathedral School told us that, since Wells is a "mini urban heat island" it very rarely snows, and the chances of it snowing sufficiently in time for our recording were about as good as winning the National Lottery! So there was only one thing for it. We would have to import some snow!
That was where the enterprising ingenuity of Bridget Cunningham and Wells Cathedral School marketing department came in handy. Bridget managed to arrange a small mention of our dilemma in the Daily Telegraph "Peterborough" column, and within a few days a company called Air Products plc had come to the rescue.
So it was, that on a bleak November day, a large lorry arrived in the peaceful surroundings of Wells Cathedral containing vast quantities of real snow, carefully made by Air Products plc. It was brilliant, it was cold, it was soft, it felt like snow and could also be made into snow balls. The arrival was closely followed by TV cameras and news photographers who had heard of the unusual occurrence which was to take place. The great West front of Wells Cathedral was to become a more spectacular snow scene than even mother nature could have arranged, and the Cathedral choristers would be photographed there for their Christmas recording. At last, all was perfect.
Or so we thought, until it started to rain! So we waited and waited, and finally, in the late morning the clouds cleared, and we had the perfect conditions for a snowball fight and a photo session.
The recording is a mixture of some familiar and favourite music with some less familiar but no less beautiful items. The familiar items, such as White Christmas will need no introduction, but some others may. The setting of O magnum mysterium by Victoria is one of the finest settings of this Christmas text by this sixteenth century Spanish composer. Similarly fine is the setting by the French composer Poulenc of Hodie Christus natus est (Today, Christ is born) with its vigorous and distinctive style, recorded in his centenary year. The setting of O little town of Bethlehem may be new to many, but it uses a superb melody from the Methodist Hymn Book by Joseph Barnby in an arrangement by Malcolm Archer. The traditional Irish melody for Today Maiden Mary comes from the Cowley Carol Book and is splendidly arranged here by Michael Nicholas, formerly Organist of Norwich Cathedral. The arrangement of Silent Night by Barry Rose was written for a carol record with Guildford Cathedral Choir in the 1960's, a record which went on to become a best all time seller. The simplicity and magic of this carol is well caught in this highly effective setting.
This is the first recording of Where do Christmas songs begin by Malcolm Archer to a text by the modern hymn writer Bishop Timothy Dudley-Smith. This flowing and lyrical setting of these words gives every section of the choir opportunity for expressive singing. Gerald Hendrie's As I outrode this enderes night was composed for Christmas 1962 for the Choristers of Norwich Cathedral, while he was acting Organist there. It was written for the choristers to sing from the organ loft with the composer accompanying. It has great rhythmic appeal, with its repeated 'terliterlow' refrain and the ending melts away with beautiful four-part chords from the treble voices. Also included is Irving Berlin's all time classic I'm dreaming of a white Christmas (RealAudio sample), in a short special arrangement for treble voices. After much soul searching it was this song which provided the inspiration for the title of the disc.
No Christmas selection would be complete without The twelve days of Christmas, and this arrangement is sung annually in Wells Cathedral at the end of the highly successful and popular 'Christmas Music by Candlelight' concerts, which now take place on two consecutive nights. The disc opens with a bright and lively setting of I saw three ships which sets the spirited mood of the recording and hopefully will fill all who listen with plenty of seasonal cheer!
Air Products plc kindly sponsored the photoshoot for this CD by providing the PolarSnow©.
The process for producing PolarSnow© uses air and water mixed at high pressure which is then rapidly frozen using liquid nitrogen to create naturally identical snow.
Recorded in Wells Cathedral on 8th, 9th and 12th March 1999, by kind permission of the Dean and Chapter.
Produced by Barry Rose and David Terry
Photograph by Tony Bolton
Recorded and edited by Lance Andrews