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Your Ideal Evensong!


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On 20/08/2009 at 12:14, Philip said:

We have to face the fact that Evensong isn't as popular as it once was, and focus nowadays is very much on the morning Eucharist. But a good Evensong done well (whether Choral or not) still inspires me and I think it would be a shame to drop it completely.

With apologies for reviving a 10-year old thread... I thought it might be interesting to revive this in light of recent news stories.

The BBC ran a TV report on Sunday discussing the increasing popularity of Choral Evensong. Attendance at "midweek services" - which is basically evensong - is apparently up 34% in the ten years since this thread was posted. Certainly in our village (well, officially a tiny town) church, the Choral Evensong which we've started doing every few months has rapidly become the second most popular service after the regular morning communion. And we're by no means the only church locally: you can piece together a very nice weekly calendar with all the nearby benefices that run occasional or monthly evensongs.

So where do we go from here? How do we cement this? Are there any resources for the amateur organist and choir to help them start, develop and grow their evensongs? I'd be interested to know what people think.

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  • 4 weeks later...
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Well this was fun, and interesting reading everyone else's responses.

Opening Voluntary
Voluntary in A - Blow

Introit
O sing unto the Lord - Purcell

Responses
Those ones by Matthew Martin I heard recently

Office Hymn
Any sung in plainsong by the choir, as is done at Ely

Psalm
Anything, sung properly and not rattled through.

Canticles
Service for Trebles - Weelkes

1 or 2 Anthems
Two anthems? An offer I can’t refuse:
See, see the Word is incarnate - Gibbons
Vox Patris Caelestis - Mundy

Two Further Hymns
there's no time left :)

Concluding Voluntary
Voluntary in A minor - Tomkins

It got me thinking what music one could choose for the longest and shortest possible evensongs.  I suppose the expectation of a 45 minute weekday service has constrained choice in recent times at least.

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Well really it would depend on the liturgical date/season, but for a generic service how about:

Prelude: Improvisation or Howells Siciliano for a High Ceremony

Introit: We wait for thy loving kindness - McKie

Responses: Rose

Psalm 91 (Bairstow in E flat)

Canticles: Howells St Paul

Anthem: For lo, I raise up - Stanford

Voluntary: Carillon-Sortie - Mulet

 

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I know I’m also several years late, however - 

Generic Sunday evensong

 - introit: The Call (Richard Lloyd)

- responses: Radcliffe

- psalms: 47, 48, 49 (Davy, Garrett, Walmisley)

- canticles: St Paul’s Service (Howells)

- anthem: Lord thou hast been our refuge (Bairstow)

- hymn: Christ triumphant (Guiting Power)

- voluntary: Paean (Howells)

And also a (very large scale) Easter Day Festal Evensong

 - introit: Rise, heart (Vaughan Williams)

- responses: Rose

- psalms: 113, 114, 118 (Crotch, Bairstow, Lloyd, Garrett)

- canticles: Rubbra in A flat

- anthem: Lo, the full final sacrifice (Finzi)

- hymn: Jesus Christ is risen today (Easter Hymn)

Coronation Te Deum (Walton)

- voluntary: Toccata from Suite op. 5 (Durufle)

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I had forgotten all about this thread and spent a few minutes cobbling up my list only to find that my choices were virtually identical to my second option that I had posted previously. I've become a bit tired of the Sheppard (glorious though it is), so now I would probably substitute Robert Parsons's Domine quis habitabit, a wonderful, but virtually unknown motet which is really just one long build-up from beginning to end. For the hymn I might possibly opt for "How shall I sing that majesty" to Coe Fen.  But where do you stop with something like this? There  are just so many favourite Evensongs one could compile!

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  • 2 weeks later...

Rather late too...

Voluntary: Elegy (Thalben Ball)

Introit: O Quam Gloriosum (Victoria)

Responses: Ayleward

Office Hymn: There's a Wideness in God's Mercy (Coverdale)

Psalm: 93 (Elgar)

Canticles: Stanford in G

Anthem: Expectans Expectavi (Wood)

Hymn: Give me the wings of faith (San Rocco)

Voluntary: Processional (Mathias)

 

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I dodn't know Corvedale, I guess it's not in the NEH? Sounds alright on a first hearing but not inclined to lynch just yet!

A Lenten evensong, unaccompanied (links are to youtube)

------------

Introit: Tomkins, Almighty God, the fountain of all wisdom (this recording is good but a bit slow!)

Responses: plainsong, of course (can't seem to find a link, sorry, everyone know the plainsong responses, right)

Psalms: 15th evening (sorry not very original)

Canticles:  Whitlock, Fauxburdens

Anthem: Monteverdi, Adoramus te Christe

---------------

No hymns (thank goodness), no voluntaries, no faffing about, just Evensong - the best thing about Lent.

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14 hours ago, SomeChap said:

Introit: Tomkins, Almighty God, the fountain of all wisdom (this recording is good but a bit slow!

I've loved this piece for most of my life and this is a super interpretation, although it would sound even better in a more reverberant acoustic. Interestingly, Gardiner's interpretation is extremely similar to that on an old LP by Magdalen College, Oxford under Bernard Rose. The speed, dynamics and nuances of expression and the general air of devotion are all very similar indeed.

Corvedale is lovely, though I prefer the anthem version with its continuous organ part.

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Most of this wrote itself. All of my choices are familiar to me from either conducting, or playing them. It was only a slight surprise, on finalising the list, to realise that they were all English.

Prelude: Henry Heron (Cornet) Voluntary no. 3 in D minor (ending on the same chord to start  the Introit)

Introit: Henry Ley Prayer of King Henry VI

[Alternatives: a Cornet voluntary in C minor, into Henry Purcell Hear my Prayer]

Responses: Rose (Smith, a close second)

Psalms: 148, 149, 150 (Stanford)

Canticles: Stanford in C (Howells’ St Paul’s Service ran this a very close second)

Anthem: Vaughan Williams Let all the world

Voluntary: Howells Psalm Prelude Set 2: No 3

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On 23/01/2020 at 17:46, Stanley Monkhouse said:

I know I'll be lynched for this, but please not Corvedale. Am I the only person in the cosmos that doesn't like it? Predictable tune, unadventurous harmonies, tedious boring rhythm. I'll get my coat.

 

On 28/01/2020 at 17:26, John Furse said:

Canticles: Stanford in C  

I'm afraid that, like Stanley with Corvedale (I quite like it by the way!!) I have an aversion to Stanford in C. It isn't musical  and I freely admit that it is down to bigotry and prejudice! It's just that whenever a group  of organists organise a joint service/festival or whatever they always want to sing Stanford in C. And ask any cathedral musician and I'll be willing to bet it comes top of the list of settings submitted by visiting choirs when singing Evensong at the local Cathedral.

Stanley - I got my coat a long time ago!!! 

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When I was running a choir we rarely sang Evensong. But, once a month we would sing Vespers in the Abbey church. We sang a lot of Plainsong, with 18 men in the choir, a monastic tradition and a dull acoustic it seemed to be a good idea. We also sang the Psalms, accompanied by a very light organ, to 'Stanbrook Tones'.

The Magnificat was always sing to a setting. A 'simple' setting might be Stanford: in B flat, Andreas: with fauxbourdons, Aston: in F, Hesford: 'Leicester Service', Causton, Vaughan Williams: in C, Dyson: in C min (unison), Tallis or Farrant. Bigger settings included Stanford: On Plainsong tones, Gordon Slater: in E flat. We sang Evensong in the local Cathedral four times and sang, the rarely performed, Kelly: for Magdalen College Oxford, a setting by Martin Doernberg with the composer present, Howells & Tippett: St. John's Cambridge

The 'Responses' we sang to Plainsong or Smith - the four part version not the five - they weren't a part of our tradition and the Anthem would either be a setting of a Marian Anthem - Alma redemptoris mater, Ave Regina Caelorum, Regina Caeli or Salve Regina depending on the season or an Anthem suitable for the day or, if Benediction was to follow a setting of O Salutaris and Tantum Ergo. The introit would be a short anthem of the kind of: Tye: O come ye servants, Farrant: Hide not thou, or taken from a book of Introits by Eric Thiman.

It is a long time ago and when I left I left behind a huge music library of 40 copies per piece! How much easier(and cheaper) it would be now to run a choir with vast amounts of music available free on Choral Wiki or the IMSLP library.

Living where I do I miss the tradition of Evensong or even Vespers. I miss the majestic verse of Cramner's Prayer book (a friend of mine, an English graduate said it wasn't majestic - it was just old!!! - I don't agree!) During Lent we sang Compline at the end of the day - which was wonderful!

To answer the question. We sang Vespers, in around 1989/90 for the local Organist's association. The programme was as follows:

Before the Service: Bach Prelude and Fugue in A min.

Introit: Sicut cervus - Palestrina

Hymns: The God of Abraham praise (Leoni), Father, hear the prayer (Sussex) - both with fauxbourdon verses (SL)

Psalms: Stanbrook Tones

Magnificat: For Magdalen College Oxford - Kelly

 Marian Anthem: Salve Regina - Palestrina a 8

After the Service: Alleluyas - Simon Preston

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John (Furse), I obvs need a lot of coats. Stanford in C is not for me either - at least not as usually: done - too loud, too coarse, too stop-start. And the way most choirs do the Gloria con molto belto - ye Gods.  IM(not very)HO it's a prayer, needs to heed CVS's metronome mark and dynamics.  And might organists remember that when in was published 1909 (I think) 32 ft reeds were rare in cathedrals.

Call me what you like, but for me an Anglican evening service it's hard to beat is Dyson in F (yes F, not D): gentle, beautiful, magical. And anthem? Tallis Loquebantur variis linguis - at a fair lick (ho ho). You can let rip in that.

How many coats have I used up now?

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I'm fascinated that this thread which I started so long ago has re-emerged! My choices would certainly be different now to those from back then, definitely featuring Howells canticles for starters...

I think the trouble with Stanford in C is that folk tend to sing it too quickly but that it's hard work at a slower pace, especially in a less than gracious acoustic with a smallish choir. When it's sung with appropriate grandeur it sounds majestic. But I'd not put it as my favourite of the Stanford services (that's the A, I think).

I get the whole point about 32ft reeds etc, but take the view that we should use the resources we have available. If Stanford had had an organ with a 32ft reed, would he not have used it for that enormous chord at the end of the Gloria with the top line on a top G?

As for Coverdale...one of the finest 20th century tunes. Sorry Stanley!

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Philip, my opinion is my opinion. Yours is yours. They're just opinions. There is no absolute or "finest" anything. FWIW I like Stanford in A very much - the nearest thing Brahms gets to Anglican canticles - indeed I'd go so far as to say that I doubt there's a finer (I don't mind the comparative) setting by anyone. Howells canticles do little for me - I'd limit them to CR and Paul's. I find Glouc lovely only in the right acoustic.

What depresses me, and we've touched on this on the board, is the fragility of the tradition. It's difficult enough to see where organists of the future will come from - but then it's difficult to see where they'd be employed. 

Residential training for clergy is contracting. The likelihood of clergy trained on nonresidential courses, given the nature of courses and applicants, being sympathetic to traditional cathedral music is not high. Cathedrals are funded better than parish churches, but they're not rolling in it (whether it's a funding issue I don't know but Lichfield cathedral has just appointed a residentiary canon - UNPAID, house for duty). The way that cathedral staff see the role of a cathedral is changing. Choir schools struggle. Boarding for children is increasingly attacked as being psychologically unhealthy for children and parents (as a parent of two boys who attended cathedral boarding schools I understand why). Parents find "better" things for their offspring to do. The parish church choral/floral tradition is now almost skeletal: such places as St Peter's Wolverhampton are as rare as the avian dentition. Without any difficulty I can list a dozen parish churches where it's gone. Look at Leeds PC - one of the wombs of the choral revival.

Yes, there are groups of adults up and down the country that sing Evensong here and there month by month, but how many of them will be doing that in say 10 years' time? It's admirable to point to good stuff going on now, but there's no denying that the environment is increasingly apathetic (to say nothing of the way that bishops seem intent on driving people away through their lamentably inept pronouncements). Let's enjoy it while it lasts.

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On 29/01/2020 at 08:24, S_L said:

How much easier(and cheaper) it would be now to run a choir with vast amounts of music available free on Choral Wiki or the IMSLP library.

IMSLP is indeed very useful, but, as someone who is a little obsessive about reliable editions, I really can't recommend CPDL.  It's full of stuff copied slavishly, but not always accurately, from printed editions, which may themselves be obsolete. Some editors have imposed their own interpretations on the music (e.g. dynamics, tempi) without warning.  CPDL is full of substandard work.  There is undoubtedly good work there too, but picking it out relies on you either knowing that the editor is trustworthy or checking carefully against a reliable published edition - and how many bother to do that?  DoMs might well reply, "What's a wonky reading here or there and who's going to know anyway?" Fair point, but if your audience contains people who know their stuff it will be noticed.  (One of our top choirs was guilty recently.) Of course even published editions aren't always bullet proof. The Le Huray/Willcocks edition of Caustun's Mag & Nunc contains a blatant error (or is it a wilful alteration?) at the end of the Mag.  The penultimate chord should be a minim, not a semibreve (the tied semibreve in the alto is a bit of a giveaway).

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12 hours ago, Vox Humana said:

IMSLP is indeed very useful, but, as someone who is a little obsessive about reliable editions, I really can't recommend CPDL.  It's full of stuff copied slavishly, but not always accurately, from printed editions, which may themselves be obsolete. Some editors have imposed their own interpretations on the music (e.g. dynamics, tempi) without warning.  CPDL is full of substandard work.  There is undoubtedly good work there too, but picking it out relies on you either knowing that the editor is trustworthy or checking carefully against a reliable published edition - and how many bother to do that?  DoMs might well reply, "What's a wonky reading here or there and who's going to know anyway?" Fair point, but if your audience contains people who know their stuff it will be noticed.  (One of our top choirs was guilty recently.) Of course even published editions aren't always bullet proof. The Le Huray/Willcocks edition of Caustun's Mag & Nunc contains a blatant error (or is it a wilful alteration?) at the end of the Mag.  The penultimate chord should be a minim, not a semibreve (the tied semibreve in the alto is a bit of a giveaway).

Only the other day I heard a performance of a well-known piece that was sung and played using a Victorian edition that had ceased to be plausible a very long time ago. 

I don't disagree with any of that and I know that, were I still running a busy choir, I would spend vast amounts of my time checking and rechecking that which I had downloaded, from wherever, was as historically accurate as possible and musical. 

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Scrolling three posts above brings Stanley M's post into view, which began on-topic but then moved onto the fragility of the tradition of church music itself.  He makes some powerful points, informed by his knowledge as an insider both of the church (a recently retired priest) and its music (he has the warpaint - FRCO etc).  It chimes with me, perhaps because I do not have anything like that depth of professional experience of either field and therefore cannot gainsay it, but also because I have made my views known on this forum about what the future of the pipe organ might be simply by looking at the future market for it in a business sense.  Both Stanley's views and mine are independent but they are similarly negative, if not depressing.

Reflecting on this, two questions are in my mind which I cannot answer.  Are those such as myself who hold these views misguided, and if so, where are the more positive alternative world views to be found?  And secondly, what sort of person would take up a career in church music today?  If the negative view cannot be dispelled, what career will there possibly be over a typical span of 40 years, say?  Are the only candidates the few who have independent means?  Otherwise, aren't they taking the most appalling gamble in choosing the profession?  This latter aspect is potentially very sad, given the years of academic slog that a typical cathedral appointee in her mid-20s has already had to go through to get there.  When I ask questions like this I get stuck.

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On 29/01/2020 at 13:19, Stanley Monkhouse said:

And might organists remember that when in was published 1909 (I think) 32 ft reeds were rare in cathedrals.

Not rare enough to be an exception though:

York (1832)

Newcastle (1883)

St Paul's (1872)

Salisbury (1876)

Peterborough (1894)

Westminster Abbey (1895)

Southwark (1897)

Lincoln (1903)

Winchester (1905)

Chester (1908)

Ely (1908)

Lichfield (1908)

Glasgow (1909)

Hereford (1909)

and Durham prepared for in 1905, though not put in until 1935.

I always use the Mag Gloria to judge whether the choir is strong enough to take the (in my case 16') reed at the end of the Nunc.

Paul

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  • 3 weeks later...

I feel I must leap, timorously and tardily, to the defence of Sir Charles. He only wrote seven symphonies, six Irish Rhapsodies, a couple of concertos and a stunningly stirring (listen to the Prelude) Stabat Mater. This last, being choral, obviously has relevance to his day-to-day liturgical output for the church. Notwithstanding his oft-stated debt to Brahms, I can hear some Dvořák in this; possibly a result of the influence of Irish folk music.

Yes, the ‘in C’ Canticles are probably too often performed (and too fast, definitely) by choirs who may not quite have them under technical control, and with conductors who do not adequately comprehend, then render, their symphonicism. That should not detract from any appreciation of their quality. Anyone who has not heard their orchestrated version should attempt to do so forthwith. They are transformed and, in this unfamiliar guise, they assume an immense - and symphonic - dimension.   

I take a composer’s specific technical issue with his Magnificat in A. As a ‘portrayal’ of a sound-picture, it is anachronistic and, in fact, impossible: rather akin to those Pre-Raphaelite depictions of Arthurian, etc., legends. Spinning-wheels did not exist 2000 years ago. In addition, I see this as a flawed image: Mary is hardly going to start manipulating a spindle when visiting her cousin, especially when her baby starts moving within her.  

I agree with Stanley Monkhouse, in his 29 January post, that it should be flowing. However, the final Pedal scalic passage deserves, nay demands, a 32’ reed, were the choir to be its equal. I wonder if this is how it will be done at King’s, going by their last Service of Nine Lessons . . .?

In terms of quiet awe, the opening of the Magnificat of Leighton’s 2nd Service takes some beating. Gentle, the conductor in me would hope !

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On 22/02/2020 at 10:16, John Furse said:

I feel I must leap, timorously and tardily, to the defence of Sir Charles. He only wrote seven symphonies, six Irish Rhapsodies, a couple of concertos and a stunningly stirring (listen to the Prelude) Stabat Mater. This last, being choral, obviously has relevance to his day-to-day liturgical output for the church. Notwithstanding his oft-stated debt to Brahms, I can hear some Dvořák in this; possibly a result of the influence of Irish folk music. 

A couple of concertos? There are Four Piano concerti (my late wife had the C minor in her repertoire!) , Three Violin Concerti as well as a Variations for Violin & orchestra, a 'cello concerto and a Clarinet concerto (an excellent recording by Thea King!)! There is also a 'concert Piece' for Organ & orchestra.

I've always thought the best of Stanford was his Orchestral & Chamber Music. The Seven symphonies, particularly the, rarely performed, E flat symphony, are wonderful.  There are Eight String quartets (recorded by the Dante quartet) and three Piano Trios as well as a host of other music.  I looked at the 2nd 'cello sonata once - but never performed it as far as I can remember.

I have a recollection of playing a trio for Clarinet, 'cello and Piano but can find no mention of it anywhere. However the pianist was the, late, great Harold Truscott and it may be that he had a score, and a set of parts, of it in that vast collection of, hardly ever played, or even known, works he kept in several cupboards!!!

My objection to the Canticles in C isn't musical I hesitate to add. I'd be willing to bet that any cathedral organist would tell you that it is the singularly most submitted work for 'visiting choirs' at Evensong and usually comes wrapped up in a mediocre performance - which, of course, does not detract from the quality of the music!! 

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On 22/02/2020 at 10:16, John Furse said:

Yes, the ‘in C’ Canticles are probably too often performed (and too fast, definitely) by choirs who may not quite have them under technical control, and with conductors who do not adequately comprehend, then render, their symphonicism. That should not detract from any appreciation of their quality. Anyone who has not heard their orchestrated version should attempt to do so forthwith. They are transformed and, in this unfamiliar guise, they assume an immense - and symphonic - dimension.   

I couldn't agree more. Immense and symphonic are absolutely correct - and I can hear Brahms in there too! But I can only find the A major Canticles!  I listened to both the Magnificat and the Nunc Dimittis this morning and the music came alive as it never has before! Are you saying that there is also an orchestrated version of the C major Canticles as well? It appears Stanford originally conceived the A major with orchestra when he wrote it in 1880 for Stainer at St. Paul's in London. I didn't know that - and I can't find a score!!

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From this programme note by Chris Howell:

“Stanford set the Evening Canticles nine times. That in F op.36 is, like those on the disc in B flat, A, G and C, the last part of a complete setting of the Morning, Communion and Evening Service. Also from a complete service is the very late (pub. 1923) setting in D. Of just the Evening Canticles there is the Magnificat and Nunc Dimittis on Gregorian Tones op.98 and two very early settings in F (1872) and E flat (1873). Some of these works have not been recorded at all to date.   However, the four on the King's disc are the only ones which have an alternative orchestral accompaniment.”  

The four are the Evening Canticles in A Opus 12 (1880); in G Opus 81 (1902); in B flat Opus 10 (1879) and in C Opus 115 (1909).  I’m afraid I can’t help at all about scores.  I remember a particularly splendid BBC broadcast of the A major with orchestra, I’m pretty sure a studio performance (in the 1990s? or very early this century), with Christopher Robinson conducting the BBC Singers and the full forces of the BBC Symphony Orchestra. A recording of that may still exist somewhere in BBC archives.

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On 24/02/2020 at 10:18, Rowland Wateridge said:

From this programme note by Chris Howell:

“Stanford set the Evening Canticles nine times. That in F op.36 is, like those on the disc in B flat, A, G and C, the last part of a complete setting of the Morning, Communion and Evening Service. Also from a complete service is the very late (pub. 1923) setting in D. Of just the Evening Canticles there is the Magnificat and Nunc Dimittis on Gregorian Tones op.98 and two very early settings in F (1872) and E flat (1873). Some of these works have not been recorded at all to date.   However, the four on the King's disc are the only ones which have an alternative orchestral accompaniment.”  

The four are the Evening Canticles in A Opus 12 (1880); in G Opus 81 (1902); in B flat (1879) and in C Opus 115 (1909).  I’m afraid I can’t help at all about scores.  I remember a particularly splendid BBC broadcast of the A major with orchestra, I’m pretty sure a studio performance (in the 1990s?), with Christopher Robinson conducting the BBC Singers and the full forces of the BBC Symphony Orchestra. A recording of that may still exist somewhere in BBC archives.

There is also a Magnificat in B flat - a capella - for double choir - set in Latin -  difficult music!

The recording I listened to was Christopher Robinson - but with St. John's and the BBC Philharmonic - it was excellent. But I can't find the Kings CD with the other three settings with orchestra. Perhaps, Rowland, you might point me in the right direction.

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“I was glad”: Sacred Music by Stanford and Parry

Carolyn Sampson and David Wilson-Johnson;  The King’s Consort and Choir of The King’s Consort;  Robert King 

Label: Vivat;   Catalogue No: VIVAT101;   Release Date: 4th Feb 2013;   Length: 67 minutes

I should have clarified: “King’s Consort” rather than King’s College.
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