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Vasari Singers perform English Sacred Choral Gems

One never needs an excuse for recording the music of Ralph Vaughan Williams, but the 150th anniversary of his birth this year most certainly deserves marking. This album's mixture of popular and less familiar choral anthems from the British Isles is attractive enough, but it is crowned by a wonderful recording (in a new version with organ accompaniment) of the Five Mystical Songs that Vaughan Williams wrote for the Three Choirs Festival in 1911.


Featuring Vaughan Williams’ masterly and intensely personal Five Mystical Songs, this album reflects on the sources of inspiration of some of his sacred choral works, alongside gems of 19th- and early-20th-century English church music. Often setting the poetry of the King James Bible, the finely spun melodies and sensitivity to word-rhythm of composers from S. S. Wesley to Herbert Howells result in a uniquely British form of expression.

Listen to an extract from Vaughan Williams’
O clap your hands
About the Artists
Roderick Williams is one of the most sought-after baritones of his generation. In demand as a recitalist, he has performed at major venues worldwide and festival appearances have included the BBC Proms (Last Night 2014), Edinburgh, Cheltenham, Aldeburgh and Melbourne. In 2016 he won the RPS Singer Award and the prize for Best Choral Composition at the British Composer Awards.
Martin Ford is the acting sub-organist of St Paul’s Cathedral in London, and the organist and director of music of The Guards’ Chapel. His wide-ranging freelance career encompasses a variety of work as an organist, piano accompanist, choral director and teacher. His discography includes a number of releases with the Vasari Singers on the Naxos label.
Jeremy Backhouse is one of Britain’s leading choral conductors. He has been the sole conductor of the internationally renowned chamber choir Vasari Singers since its inception in 1980, and in 2009 he was appointed music director of the Salisbury Community Choir. He has also worked with a number of the UK’s other leading choirs, including the BBC Singers, the London Symphony Chorus, the Philharmonia Chorus and the Brighton Festival Chorus.
Vasari Singers was founded in 1980 and is regarded as one of the leading chamber choirs in Britain. The choir’s extensive discography includes a large collection of premiere recordings, many of which are of works they themselves commissioned. The choir’s recordings have received significant acclaim, achieving chart successes and similar recommendations, notably the online launch concert for the highly successful album Heaven Full of Stars (8.574179).
Other albums by the Vasari Singers
‘The whole programme is mesmerizing and the performances are exquisite – perfect intonation, blend, expression, musicality, and sheer beauty of choral sound.’
American Record Guide
‘The arrangements are sensational and one is in awe before a choir that can turn in magnificent performances of the most serious and taxing works in the repertoire, yet is able to turn its collective hand, with slickness that defies description, to entertaining showstoppers.’
International Record Review
‘A thoughtfully conceived and interesting programme has been flawlessly executed. The singing not only gives consistent pleasure but also prompts admiration.’
MusicWeb International
‘The music on this disc represents the English church music tradition at its finest and the performances are admirable.’
MusicWeb International
More releases of music by Ralph Vaughan Williams
8.508021 [8-Disc Boxed Set]
‘There isn’t a dud performance in sight! A Vaughan Williams Anthology, released to celebrate 150 years since the musician’s birth, is a masterpiece.’
Daily Mail ★★★★
‘ ... the real novelty here is a setting of Rossetti for baritone, optional female chorus and orchestra; and it is really rather beautiful. Altogether an unexpectedly attractive disc, very well sung, played and recorded.’
Penguin Guide
Sancta Civitas • Dona Nobis Pacem

The Bach Choir • Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra • Hill
‘ … this new Naxos release … ought to be acquired by anyone with an interest in this repertoire. It is powerful, lucid, beautifully sung, and vividly recorded. ’
‘Watch out for Roderick Williams as he climbs the ladder to international baritone stardom. This eloquent, imaginative anthology proves that he's well on the way.’
Classic FM ★★★★

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