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C&O needs an extra five-star summa cum laude category for discs like this. Despite being recorded in Buckfast Abbey rather than in their own home, it captures the superlative essence of Westminster Cathedral Choir, with the added poignancy of being one of the last (possibly the last) recording to be made under the direction of Martin Baker, who resigned at the end of last year. Their journey through Holy Week demonstrates, as you would expect, their unique skill in singing Gregorian chant, which comes from the discipline of daily performance and familiarity with the liturgy, combined with an aspiration towards musical perfection and beauty that is unerringly achieved. The same exquisite balance between musical and spiritual intention can be heard throughout the disc, but particularly in two motets by Byrd – Ne irascaris, Domine and Civitas sancti tui – where every phrase is mellifluously shaped, the choral lines are handed seamlessly from one voice part to another, and cadences hang like gossamer in the air before resolving with haunting wistfulness. The disc opens with the fanfare Ingrediente Domino by George Malcolm, one of the cathedral’s most distinguished masters of the music; highlights also include a lovely acclamation for Maundy Thursday by Martin Baker’s predecessor James O’Donnell, followed by an extended setting of Postquam surrexit Dominus by Baker himself, beginning with harmonisations of plainsong and moving into what Jeremy Summerly describes in the notes as ‘a kaleidoscopic polystylism’, full of suspensions and close harmony. The CD was the perfect companion in a Holy Week devastated by the Covid- 19 lockdown; and at a time when the future of Westminster Cathedral Choir itself apparently hangs in the balance, it is sadly fitting that its journey ends on Holy Saturday with the bittersweet setting of the hymn ‘Praise to the holiest’ by R.R. Terry, the cathedral’s first master of the music, rather than with a celebration of Easter Day.

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