Second album in Magnificat series released by College Choir

"I think it is perhaps the best recording the Choir and I have made during my first 14 years at St John’s"

The second volume of the 'inventive and brilliant' album Magnificat by the Choir of St John's College has been released today (16 April).

Magnificat 2 is a celebration of Evensong that features Herbert Howells’ Collegium Regale and Julian Anderson's St John's Service, and also includes settings by Berkeley, Jackson, Pärt, Sumsion, Swayne, Walton and Watson.

The album follows the release of Magnificat by the Choir in 2019, which was ‘Editor’s Choice’ in Gramophone Magazine and called ‘inventive and brilliant’ by The Observer.

Magnificat 2 features nine contrasting settings of the Evening Canticles, texts that have been sung or said for more than a thousand years. As with the first volume, the recording explores how composers have approached the timeless Magnificat and Nunc Dimittis texts, the repertoire of which is used in the Evensong services by the Choir daily during term time. The two albums are designed to complement each other, with the first one starting in the 1880s, and the second bringing the listener to the present day.

Andrew Nethsingha with singers from the Choir of St John’s College, Cambridge
Andrew Nethsingha with singers from the Choir of St John's College. Photo credit: Benjamin Ealovega

Four of the nine settings on the new recording are by celebrated organist-composers, written between 1932 and 1952, and four are by non-church musicians from 1974-1989. The ninth work features a composition by Julian Anderson, Evening Canticles, which was commissioned by the Choir of St John’s to mark the 150th anniversary of the College Chapel in 2019, and this is its world premiere recording. This is also the first time that Julian has set the texts in English, and he emphasises the contrasts between the two texts through the music. He dedicates this work to Andrew Nethsingha, Director of Music at St John’s.

Andrew said: “I am very excited to be releasing this disc, especially at a time when the Choir has been unable to sing to a public congregation for over a year. I think it is perhaps the best recording the Choir and I have made during my first 14 years at St John’s. This is music which we live with day by day, and interpretations deepen over time. I am keen to share this fine repertoire with others. It fascinates me how the two texts, Magnificat and Nunc Dimittis, can provoke such varied responses from composers.”

The album, which is released on Signum Records, features Glen Dempsey and James Anderson-Besant on the organ. It also includes booklet notes with an introduction by the former Archbishop of Canterbury Dr Rowan Williams, conductor reflections from Andrew Nethsingha, and a note from Julian Anderson as well as scans of his handwritten manuscripts, thought to be the first time these have been published. 

Listen to Julian discussing St John's Service as a guest on 'New Notes', a podcast by Alex Woolf, composer and St John's alumnus.

The Choir was formed in the 1670s and is considered to be one of the best collegiate choirs in the world. It is known for its distinctive sound, expressive interpretations and diverse repertoire, and its first release with Signum Records, Deo, won the Choral Award at the BBC Music Magazine Awards 2017.  

Buy Magnificat 2 by the Choir of St John's College and Andrew Nethsingha

Published: 16/4/2021

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