There Were Shepherds
Malvern Sparks 002
1. The King of Glory - Widdecombe ms "The King of glory sends his Son"
2. "How Beautiful upon the Mountains" - R.A.Smith
3. Mount Zion - Mount/Dawson ms "Mortals awake, with angels join"
4. Pentonville - William Marsh "While Shepherds Watched their flocks by night"
5. Back lane - Mount/Dawson ms (W.Womack) "My soul doth magnify the Lord"
6. Zion - Widdecombe manuscript (Matthews) "How beauteous are the feet"
7. "Arise & Hail the Glorious Day" - Hardy manuscripts
8. "Awake & Join the Cheerful Choir" - George Hanford ms book, Dorset
9. "Arise & Hail the Sacred Day" - Hardy ms (Joseph Stephenson)
10.Advent - Supply Belcher "The Lord descended from above" (American Shape-note piece)
11.Nativity - Bruce Randall "Mortals awake, with angels join" (American Shape-note piece)
12.Sing of the Angels at the Nativity - William Knapp "While Shepherds Watched their flocks by night"
13.Newton's or St.Paul's - Martin ms book "Angels from the Realms of Glory"
14.There were Shepherds - Wheddon Cross ms, Somerset
15.Lonsdale - attr. Correlli; Bundell ms "Rejoice and sing the great Jehovah's born"
16.The Infant Saviour - William Knapp "O sight of anguish"
17."Angels from the Realms of Glory" - Thomas Merritt
18.Shepherds Arise - Puddleton ms, Dorset
19."Rejoice ye Tenants of the Earth" - William Gifford
The CD costs £10 + £1 p&p from Vital Spark, 6 Eston Avenue, Malvern, WR14 2SR.
Review by Mike Walker (January 2002)
The new CD from Vital Spark, There Were Shepherds, is a collection of Christmas music to delight the heart of both West Gallery enthusiasts and those new to the genre. Old favourites such as Pentonville and Arise and Hail the Joyful Day are seasoned with items that are sure to be new to you. The whole is like a seasonal chocolate box, every item different and delightful with something for almost every taste.
The group of excellent musicians provide a strong, clear lead with well-played symphonies and accompaniment and yet they are not overused with several powerful pieces being performed unaccompanied. This variety is also maintained by the use of both solo and duet items as well as the use of a couple of Shape Note tunes.
I particularly liked the sonorous quality of Back Lane where the depth of harmony is displayed to excellent effect and the gloomy carol The Infant Saviour with its minor key and change in rhythm. I was happy to find that some of the Sheffield items were sung at a brisker pace than perhaps the Yorkshire pub singers might like. For my tastes the more bright and bouncy effect this produces enhances the music and keeps the interest, especially of the general public.
The more seasoned West Gallery devotees may perhaps feel that the particular choice of material is not adventurous or challenging enough, however I feel that, since at the moment the majority of these tunes have never been recorded on CD perhaps this is a good base to start from and will certainly provide a welcome introduction to the music for a wider audience.
My main complaint is a slight weakness in the balance of tenors who, to my taste, were sometimes not quite strong enough to carry the tune with conviction in face of the forceful soprano and alto sections. I found this particularly evident in Pentonville where the melody seemed almost hidden. I accept that, as a tenor, I may well be biased in this regard but feel that a little more depth in this section would be an improvement to what is undoubtedly a fine choir.
The enjoyment of the choir rings though the recording and with their clear diction letting the words express their feelings and the careful choice of material the choir has produced a CD of very high quality. I see this as not only a superb introduction for those friends who are not yet involved in the West Gallery movement but also something well worth adding to your own collection for the sheer enjoyment of old favourites well sung. This welcome addition to the rather limited range of West Gallery CDs should be on everyone's Christmas present list for next year.
Listen to some extracts from the CD:
Pentonville - 471 Kb (30 secs)
There were Shepherds - 470 Kb (30 secs)
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