SOMM RECORDINGS announces the release of I Vow to Thee, My Country, believed to be the first recording to feature all of Gustav Holst’s sacred choral music, by the Chapel Choir of the Royal Hospital Chelsea directed by William Vann, with organist Joshua Ryan and Richard Horne on tubular and bass bells.
A prolific composer best known for his orchestral spectacular The Planets, Holst was an expressive and sincere composer and arranger of religious music despite his professed agnosticism.
Included are his only setting of the Anglican Service for Evening Prayer, Nunc Dimittis, and his substantial Two Psalms and Four Festival Choruses, whose inspirations range from the Bible, Byzantine liturgy, 16th-century sources (not least Bach), and Welsh hymns.
The 12 other featured songs see Holst setting an impressive array of centuries-spanning texts, and include the striking eight-part setting of Ave Maria for unaccompanied female voices, the ecstatic Not Unto Us, O Lord, premiered by the Royal Hospital Chelsea and William Vann in 2020, and the disc’s anthemic title song, its melody borrowed from The Planets’ ‘Jupiter’.
I Vow to Thee, My Country is sponsored by The Holst Society, who also commissioned four new arrangements making their debut on disc by Iain Farrington, and includes extensive, authoritative notes by Andrew Neill.
William Vann and the Chapel Choir of the Royal Hospital Chelsea’s previous SOMM releases include Carols from Chelsea (SOMMCD 0161), a Guardian Best Classical Christmas Release admired for its “model singing”; In Remembrance (SOMMCD 0187) marking the centenary of the 1918 Armistice was praised by Gramophone for its “beautifully nuanced performances”; and The Reeds by Severn Side (SOMMCD 0278), choral music by Elgar, which BBC Music Magazine hailed as “another feather in the cap for the Vann- Royal Hospital Chelsea partnership”.
On This Recording
- Nunc Dimittis
- Gird on Thy Sword (Chilswell)
- Two Psalms - Psalm 86: To My humble Supplication
- Two Psalms - Psalm 148: Lord, Who Hast Made Us For Thine Own
- In This World, the Isle of Dreams (Brook End)
- Not Unto Us, O Lord
- Our Blest Redeemer (Essex)
- Short Festival Te Deum
- From Glory to Glory Advancing (Sheen)
- Man Born to Toil
- Eternal Father
- By Weary Stages the Old World Ages (Hill Crest)
- Christ hath a Garden (Leighton)
- Ave Maria
- I Vow to Thee, My Country (Thaxted)
- Four Festival Choruses - A Festival Chime
- Four Festival Choruses - All People that on Earth do Dwell
- Four Festival Choruses - Let All Mortal Flesh Keep Silence
- Four Festival Choruses - Turn Back, O Man
“This recording by the Chapel Choir of the Royal Hospital, Chelsea directed by William Vann is unlikely ever to be equalled, certainly never bettered. The 20 choral voices are perfectly blended in harmonies, with dazzlingly complex and sometimes astonishing counterpoints as well. There are, in addition, superb individual solos sung by seven exceptionally fine voices from the choir, two sopranos, one alto, three tenors and one bass.… it was the surprising turns that run through so many of the nineteen pieces that left me amazed and delighted with this entire performance.” —Alan Cooper, British Music Society
“Another valuable and indeed unique collection of music from SOMM. For admirers of Gustav Holst’s music it is a consistent frustration that his wider fame rests on a handful of – if not a single – work. This generously filled (76:19) CD is a case in point.… n excellent survey – very well performed, well engineered and presented with SOMM’s usual quality liner which includes all texts in English only. The range of music and styles is interesting from simple and direct hymn settings to demanding multi-part anthems. Probably Holst’s greatest music for chorus – either a capella or accompanied – lies elsewhere with his Rig Veda settings pre-eminent. But this disc does fill important and useful gaps in available knowledge of this important composer. I like very much the performing style of William Vann and his Royal Hospital Choir. They are a very accomplished group but at the same time the sound they make has the authentic ring of an Anglican church choir. A rewarding and valuable disc.” —Nick Barnard, MusicWeb International
“this new SOMM release – including five first recordings – will automatically interest collectors of [Holst]’s music. ‘Not Unto Us, O Lord’ is the most substantial of the recorded premieres, a six-minute anthem where a stirring tenor solo (sung by Edward Hughes) is flanked by blocks of contrapuntal choral writing… Conductor William Vann gives substantial breadth to the music, ensuring that the introspection of Holsts’s response is fully registered. Vann’s talent for eliciting intelligent responses to text, and his use of dynamic nuances to clarify meaning, are splendidly evident in the Nunc Dimittis. The 20 singers of the Royal Hospital Chelsea Choir give life to every line, moving from hushed beginnings to full-voiced elation with rare articulacy and confidence.” —Terry Blain, BBC Music Magazine (4 Star Performance/5 Star Recording)