The mixed choir His Majestie’s Clerkes takes listeners to the heights of tonal beauty on this album of rarely recorded, a cappella music by three English Romantic composers of the early twentieth century - Vaughan Williams, Stanford, and Parry.
Best known to most concertgoers as a symphonist, Vaughan Williams is represented by a large-scale work for chorus, his Mass in G Minor (1922). The Chicago Tribune described the Clerkes’ 1997 concert performance of this work as "rapt, strikingly beautiful . . . a genuinely moving experience." Sir Richard Terry, director of the Westminster Cathedral Choir and leader of the English a capella revival, called Vaughan Williams’ mass "one of the greatest choral works of the century" for its fiery intensity and devotional spirit.
Stanford’s complete Three Motets, Op. 38, includes the beloved, oft-performed Beati quorum via, familiar to choral audiences and singers alike. On the new album, listeners have the rare opportunity to hear the Beati along with its companion works, Justorum animae, and Coelos ascendit hodie.
Parry’s six searching, elegiac Songs of Farewell "represent his art at its deepest," notes The Penguin Guide to Compact Discs - especially the poignantly intense and beautiful harmonies of At the round earth’s imagined corners. The songs, based on Biblical psalms and English poems, are considered Parry’s most inspired works. In the CD notes, Anne Heider, the Clerkes’ artistic director, observes, "The motets have a crescendo of texture, from four parts in the opening work to five, six, seven, and finally eight parts in the last, and a concomitant crescendo of emotional intensity, culminating in the anguished searching of Psalm 39 ["Lord, let me know mine end"]."
Founded in 1982, His Majestie’s Clerkes are known well beyond their hometown of Chicago through five previous recordings for the Centaur, Narada, and Harmonia Mundi labels and their nationally broadcast performances via WFMT Radio and National Public Radio’s Performance Today. Heider describes the 24-member chorus and its listeners as sharing "a passion for beautiful sound in beautiful spaces."
"Clear, luminous tone is [their] trademark," affirms the Chicago Sun-Times. To capture that sound on disc, Cedille chose to use a single pair of Schoeps MK21 (near cardioid) mics. Producer Jim Ginsburg says the objective was to convey "the lustrous sound of the chorus and the warm, reverberant acoustic of the room while preserving the detail and texture of the counterpoint and polyphony."