The choir's latest disc, a compilation of music for Advent and Christmas, was officially released today, and is available to buy in our online shop, or in Blackwell's Music in Oxford, as well as being available on iTunes, Spotify, and elsewhere. The second release on the choir's own label, Novum, under the new Organist, Robert Quinney, this is a perfect disc to order now, ready to be brought out when Advent begins surprisingly soon...
The disc follows the trajectory of the last weeks of Michaelmas term at New College - on Advent Sunday, the chapel packed with members of college, for the annual Advent carol service, and then a move at high speed over the following week to arrive in the second week of December, more-or-less in the season of Christmas, with a Christmas carol service. This artificial compression of proper liturgical time makes sense in Oxford, where, by the third week of December, almost all the students have gone down- and, in any case, out in the ‘real world’ the Christmas decorations have been twinkling for weeks already...
On Monday of 0th Week - that is, October 3rd, for those not in Oxford! - the choir sang at the Installation service of Miles Young as the new Warden of the College, following Sir Curtis Price's retirement. With the Lord Bishop of Winchester presiding - in his role ex officio as Visitor of the College - the Warden-elect entered to a fanfare composed for the occasion by the Organist, Robert Quinney.
The service also included a new composition by Toby Young, commissioned by the College for this special occasion, setting to music the words of Bishop Thomas Ken, a 17th century Fellow:
O God, make the door of this house wide enough to receive all who need human love and fellowship; narrow enough to shut out all envy, pride and strife. Make its threshold smooth enough to be no stumbling block to children, nor to straying feet, but rugged and strong enough to turn back the tempter’s power. God make the door of this house the gateway to thy divine kingdom. Amen.
Toby Young said of the new commission:
"'O God Make the Door' was commissioned by New College to celebrate the installation of Miles Young as the new Warden. As for any celebration, it is a huge challenge to make the music 'fit' amidst all of the pomp and ceremony - too restrained and the music can seem conceited, too joyful and it might seem insincere. In setting this beautiful text by Thomas Ken, I have tried to balance the simple elegance of the words against the sense of strength and power that they invoke."
The service is available to listen back to online, on our Webcasts page. We've also provided a copy of the service booklet below, to allow you to follow along - and understand the Latin - as you listen.
We're delighted that the choir's latest disc, symphony anthems by John Blow, has been reviewed in the September issue of the Gramophone magazine. One of the reviews singled out in Editor's Choice, Martin Cullingford also writes:
"It's wonderful to hear New College Choir - for 38 years led by Edward Higginbottom - in equally excellent form on this first disk under Robert Quinney."
The full review can be found below.
The disc is available to buy in our online shop, to listen on Spotify and Apple Music, and to download on iTunes, Amazon, and on Google Play.
"This is the first album devoted exclusively to John Blow’s church music since the Parley of Instruments and the Choir of Winchester Cathedral collaborated many moons ago for a memorable instalment in Hyperion’s ‘The English Orpheus’ series (3/96). There is only minimal overlap with the six anthems chosen by Robert Quinney for his debut recording at the helm of the Choir of New College, Oxford, and these performances are an assured synthesis of elegant musicality, judicious ear for contrapuntal detail and informed scholarship. Moreover, the players of St James’ Baroque correctly use tenor and bass violins (not anachronistic violas and cellos, nor extraneous double basses), and their bowed instruments use equal tension across all their gut strings; such factors assist the intimacy and elegant poise of the polyphonic ‘symphonies’ played during all but one of the anthems.
"The diligently researched programme covers the scope of Blow’s career, the earliest work being the plangent symphony anthem When Israel came out of Egypt, probably composed for Easter 1674; its concise string symphonies and expressive solo quartet verses are all performed exquisitely. Another less familiar gem in Hear my voice, O God, sung at the Chapel Royal in 1683 in the wake of an assassination plot against Charles II and the Duke of York; the psalm praying for deliverance from enemies presumably struck a poignant chord at court, and this performance achieves a beguiling juxtaposition of penitential strings, shapely choral passages and polished solo singing (notably from the countertenor Alexander Chance).
"At the other end of the scale, God spake sometime in visions was sung at the coronation of James II and Mary of Modena; the eight-part choral singing is relaxed yet luminous, and verse passages are judged beautifully by assorted choristers and clerks. The substantial O sing unto the Lord (1701) features more elaborate solo-voice verses, a sense of dramatic pacing, contrasting moods and textures, and a contrapuntal ‘Alleluia’ refrain that hints towards a proto-Handelian musical language. In Blow’s flamboyant setting of I was glad, composed for the official opening in 1697 of the chancel of Wren’s new St Paul’s Cathedral, two trumpets make radiant contributions to Guy Cutting’s stratospherically high tenor solo ‘The king shall rejoice’ and several choral sections.
"All the works are given splendid performances which not only remind us that there is more to Blow than merely being Purcell’s mentor but also confirm that New College’s famous choir is in very good hands."
New College Choir is giving two concerts in June in honour of Sir Curtis Price, who retires from his position as Warden at the end of this University Term.
On Saturday 11 June, in the Sheldonian Theatre, we will be joined by recent alumni now enjoying busy singing careers - Nick Pritchard (tenor) and Alexander Chance (countertenor), together with acclaimed soprano Gillian Keith and the Oxford period instrument orchestra Instruments of Time & Truth.
On Tuesday 21 June, the choir performs at the Cadogan Hall in London, joined by The English Concert and a team of star soloists - Lucy Crowe, Robin Blaze, Benjamin Hulett and Marcus Farnsworth.
Both concerts culminate in a performance of the Ode for St Cecilia's Day by Handel - a rarely heard masterpiece, which sets a text in praise of music by John Dryden with typical Handelian colour and lyricism. At the Sheldonian we will also perform anthems by Henry Purcell and his contemporary John Blow - whose God spake sometime in visions opens the choir's recently released new CD; and Robert Quinney will play Handel's Organ Concerto in F, Opus 4 no 4. At the Cadogan Hall on 21 June the programme opens with Bach's effervescent motet Der Geist hilft, before we turn to Handel for another ode: Eternal source of light divine, written to celebrate the birthday of Queen Anne in 1713.
Tickets are available as follows:
Saturday 11 June, Sheldonian Theatre: via Oxford Playhouse website
Tuesday 21 June, Cadogan Hall: via Cadogan Hall website
A photographer from the Daily Telegraph visited us on Saturday. The images were published as part of this article:
The purpose of New College Choir is, fundamentally, to pray for the soul of the Founder, William of Wykeham. But we also exist to serve the college as it is currently constituted - that is, the current body of students, staff and fellows - and the wider community, whom we welcome as guests. For many in our congregation, firm religious conviction seems impossible, but the music and language of Evensong provide both a valuable respite from the quotidian, and perhaps a means of access to something otherwise intangible...
Photo by Nick Rutter
New College Choir is seeking an experienced music administrator to take responsibility for the planning and management of the choir’s UK and international concert and touring programme, the production and marketing of the choir’s record label Novum, and overseeing the content of the choir’s website and promoting its activities via social media.
For full details and how to apply please see the New College vacancy page.
The closing date for this vacancy has now passed.
New College Choir Carol Services 2015
Sunday 29 November at 5.30pm
Sunday 6 December at 3.00pm
Due to enormous demand, we regret that there are currently no more tickets available for the Christmas Carol Service on 6 December.
However, a very few antechapel (restricted view) tickets are still available for this Sunday’s Advent Carol service – please email firstname.lastname@example.org for details.
There are generally returns on the day, so all those still interested in attending either service may want to queue at the antechapel entrance for any spare seats. Both services will also be available afterwards as webcasts.
Tickets are still available for the concert on Tuesday 8 December - the Choir of New College Oxford will be singing at Dorchester Abbey, in a Festival of Readings and Music for Christmas, in aid of the Home Farm Trust. More information on this event, and a link to buy tickets (via Eventbrite), is on our Upcoming Events page.