John Rutter and the Cambridge Singers This Is the Day: Music on Royal Occasions Review

Released 2012.  

BBC Review

Sacred choral easy listening of the highest standard.

Charlotte Gardner 2012

Many will remember that one of the new musical commissions for the wedding of Prince William and Kate Middleton in 2011 was a work by the king of crowd-pleasing feel-good sacred music, John Rutter. This Is the Day, whilst perhaps not on a par with Rutter's very best anthems, is still a sweetly happy and fresh-sounding piece, and it has now become the title track for his and The Cambridge Singers' Jubilee year CD.

Reflecting the Royal Family's personal choices and commissions for weddings, funerals and anniversaries over the past 60 years, This Is the Day is a diverse and well-balanced mix of mostly British works such as Britten's Choral Dances from Gloriana, performed at the 1953 coronation, and Mealor's Ubi Caritas, another of the contemporary works from the most recent royal wedding. Handel, Harris, Tavener and Rodney Bennett are some of the other composers featured.

Rutter newly orchestrated This Is the Day for this recording, along with a new orchestration of Schubert's Psalm 23 – The Lord Is My Shepherd, which was sung at the funeral of the Queen Mother. He has also penned a new arrangement for unaccompanied choir of the Air from County Derry, to the text I Would Be True, heard at the funeral of Princess Diana.

Recorded in London's Temple Church and in the Cathedral and Abbey Church of St Alban, it's all beautifully sung. Elin Manahan Thomas performs Mozart's Laudate Dominum with effortless grace, whilst the Cambridge Singers are chameleon-like in their ability to take on different musical styles, from Edwardian chorale-style reverence in Walford Davies' God Be in My Head, to the lightly syncopated easy listening style of their director the next.

Rutter's tempi also feel spot on, with works such as Tavener's Song for Athene given the space they need to breathe, and works such as Duruflé's Ubi Caritas taken at an easy forward-feeling momentum, but not so much as to lose the impression of spiritual reverence. The Aurora Orchestra accompany with all their habitual verve and sparkle.

Light, joyous, and beautifully performed, this is sacred choral easy listening of the highest standard.

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