St Albans Cathedral Girls Choir
Lay Clerks of St Albans Cathedral
Tom Winpenny conductor and piano

NAXOS 8.574576

Elizabeth Poston (1905 -1987) studied composition privately with Ralph Vaughan Williams. She was a close friend of Peter Warlock, and an expert on his music. For many years she worked for the BBC, in particular, what was then called the Third Programme. She was important in the publication of Christmas Carols (The Penguin Book of Christmas Carols) and Hymn tunes (The Cambridge Hymnal). All of these sides to her musical life are represented on this CD.

Central to the recording is The Nativity, A Sequence for Christmas. It was first performed on the Third Programme on 26 December 1950. This CD offers the world première recording of the work. The texts, taken from Christmas verses, were collated by Terence Tilling, the producer of the programme.

The music is light and tuneful, not really carols, but with more than a hint of that musical world. Solo parts, Joseph, Mary, Angels and even the voice of the yet to be born Christ Child are sung by soloists mentioned above. Organist, Oliver Morrell also has an important part. The music is very appealing, an oratorio in miniature. It paints the Nativity scenes so graphically.

The CD opens with four carols, in particular the delightful Jesus Christ the Apple Tree for which Poston is best remembered. There is an exuberant setting of The Boar’s Head Carol along with two attractive carols In Memory of Peter Warlock. The first of these uses a melody from Warlock’s Capriol Suite.

Later in the CD there are children’s carols performed by St Albans Cathedral Girls Choir with piano accompaniments by Tom Winpenny. The Dormouse’s Carol is particularly winsome.

Salve Jesus, little Lad, a highlight,is a duet sung by Nina Vinther and Izzi Blain with colourful piano accompaniment from Tom Winpenny. The Princesses’ Carol has words by Eleanor Farjeon written in honour of the then Princesses Elizabeth who became our Queen and her sister Margaret.

Near the end of the CD is Poston’s setting of the Hymn Our Father, by whose servants by G. W. Briggs. Just one more among so many attractive works on this CD which could make a fine Christmas present?

Review by Alan Cooper