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A hefty bag of Christmas discs hits the doormat and provides a wealth of new settings for choirs to explore, including much variety from the cathedrals. On An Ely Christmas, the Cathedral’s warm acoustics and organ accompaniment are balanced by the clear and finely-tuned voices of the girl choristers (joined in a few tracks by the lay clerks) in familiar and new repertoire. Over to Portsmouth, where the sizeable Cathedral Choir is joined by the Cathedral Consort and Youth Choir for Verbum Caro Factum Est, a wide-ranging collection of familiar and newer pieces, including the charming Missa ad praesepe (George Malcolm) and gems from Walton, Carter and Stopford – well worth sampling for its repertoire and well-honed sounds. In London, the RC St George’s Cathedral in Southwark has developed a distinctive choral presence, including the introduction of girl choristers in 2003. On Christmas at St George’s combine with the lay clerks in an interesting programme built around seasonal chant, hymns and choral settings, all sung with understanding and energy. Meanwhile, the Choir of Westminster School sings stunning contemporary repertoire with style, precision and conviction, including works by MacMillan, Martin, McDowall and Panufnik; Now May We Singen is an exciting recording, which benefits from the attractive acoustics and organ of Keble College Chapel, Oxford, where it was recorded.

MATTHEW POWER Read the full review on Agora Classica

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