Ave Rex Angelorum: Carols and Music tracing the journey from Christ the King to Epiphany

In this unique sequence of music for the Christmas season, the choir of Keble College presents a captivating selection of twenty- and twenty-first century choral music, arrangements and well-known carols. The programme, which features several world premiere recordings, reflects the present tradition of grand liturgy at Keble with inflections of plainchant and kaleidoscopic organ accompaniment. The disc was recorded in the great Benedictine monastery of Buckfast Abbey, showcasing its stunning acoustic and magnificent Ruffatti organ.

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Recorded in the gloriously resonant space of Buckfast Abbey this is a glorious disc of bold and engaging repertoire. Here is music that captures the mystery and wonder of the festivals and seasons. Martin’s ingenuity as a composer is reflected throughout the disc; his O Oriens is especially striking, exploring many different vocal textures and organ timbres that shed new light on the familiar words and melodies. The plainsong arrangements dotted throughout the programme are compellingly presented; textual clarity and rhythmic fluidity are well combined. Hymns are dramatically realized without ever being over-wrought. The Christmas portion of the disc features works of several familiar names and also familiar words and melodies, yet there is a sense of musical freshness here that is most welcome, The colourful harmonic palate of Richard Rodney Bennett’s Lullaby baby is given an especially fine account. The disc comes to a climax with the title track, Taverner’s brief but arresting work, Ave Rex angelorium, that challenges listeners in its textural juxtapositions, rhythmic complexity and startling conclusion. The choir is more than up to this challenge, and indeed performs with impressive cohesion and clarity throughout, wile the organ accompaniments make excellent use of the Abbey’s organ. This is a disc to savour.  ***** [Martin Clarke Organists’ Review.]

It’s no surprise that this year’s sack of Christmas releases is less than half the volume of last season’s, given the challenges choirs have faced this year. However, much was recorded before lockdown and the results are high in quality and imagination. University chapel choirs have certainly been busy. On Ave Rex Angelorum, Matthew Martin directs the Choir of Keble College Oxford, with Jeremy Filsell and Benjamin Mills at the organ, as they trace the journey from the feast of Christ the King to the Epiphany [CRD Records CRD3537]. This atmospheric collection almost forms a musical liturgy, underpinned by plainchant with vibrant accompaniments arranged by Martin. Carols from Lennox Berkeley, Britten, Rodney Bennett, Rütti, Tavener, and several by Martin, are sung with precision and drama. [Choir and Organ Magazine]

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