A Festival of Psalms


The Psalms of David are arguably the portion of the Old Testament that has been enfolded most completely within the Christian tradition and its liturgies. Their messages of strife and joy, prayer and praise, resonate strong and loud alongside the teachings of Jesus, and find special expression in musical settings. This disc is an exploration of all these themes, as interpreted by composers over the course of four and a half centuries – with music by Allegri, Bernstein, Byrd, Parry, Purcell and Wesley.

The Temple Church is one of the most historic and beautiful churches in London. Situated between Fleet Street and the Thames Embankment, its recorded musical history extends back to its restoration in 1841, although a church has stood on the site for over 800 years. This is Signum’s second disc with the choir, following 2010’s release of ‘The Majesty of Thy Glory’ (SIGCD225).
“Such enterprising and polished music-making deserves widespread currency. The engineering and editing are faultless, the booklet comprehensive and informative. Many choirs (and organists) could learn much from this jubilant release, which proves that the Temple Church Choir is among the very best. Strongly recommended.”
The Gramophone Magazine

What people are saying

"Incorporating leftover music from West Side Story, Bernstein employs organ, harp and percussion as he extends a theme of peace and unity between nations from the opening “Jubilate”, to the restful uplift of Psalm 131." The Independent

"As heard here, the choir of 18 boys and 12 men has a highly impressive and solid choral tone well served by a warm recorded sound and excellent presence. They are clearly one of the finest choirs in England … If this recording is any indication, [Vivian’s] work with the choir is outstanding."  American Record Guide, October 2012

The Temple Church Choir

Greg Morris Organ

Robert Millett Percussion

Sally Pryce Harp

James Vivian Director

Release date:9th Jan 2012
Order code:SIGCD279
Barcode: 635212027929

October 2012

The psalms are at the centre of Jewish and Christian worship and have been a source of inspiration and comfort to the faithful throughout the ages. This CD presents the works of six composers and demonstrates a wide variety in expression and interpretation of the ancients’ texts. The programme begins with a lively performance of Bernstein’s Chichester Psalms originally commissioned by the former Temple organist, the late and greatly-lamented Dr John Birch, which he was organist of Chichester Cathedral. Any problems of coordination between choir, organ, harp and percussion in the Temple acoustic are not apparent, although the recording sounds a little distant at times. Allegri’s famous Miserere (psalm 51) makes appropriate use of spatial effects. The main choral sound is rich, well balanced and sonorous, while the semi-chorus is ethereal and detached. 

Byrd’s exquisite verse setting of Teach me, O Lord is given a sensitive and beautifully judged performance. Wesley’s Ascribe unto the Lord is equally satisfying and the various moods are well caught with contrasting tuttis and smaller ensembles. The choir sounds at home with this famous repertoire. The final anthem, Parry’s Hear my words, ye people is given robust treatment, not least by the organist, Greg Morris, who accompanies throughout with style and panache. This is a most enjoyable CD and it is good to know that the long and unique musical traditions of the Temple Church are safe in the hands of James Vivian. 

Organists’ Review, Alan Spedding

Choir and Organ, May 2012

Any new disc that contains Bernstein’s Chichester Psalms catches my eye. This one contains much more of note, with settings of psalm texts in various styles by Allegri (the Miserere), verse anthems by Byrd (Teach me, 0 Lord, with a crystal-clear alto solo from Tim Travers-Brown) and Purcell (Thy word is a lantern), Wesley (Ascribe unto the Lord) and Parry (Hear my words, ye people). Apart from the variety of this great music, the polish of the choir’s singing, combining a beautifully honed treble line with characterful yet restrained adult voices, is all recorded with fine balance. Copious sleeve notes add value to a very attractive release.

Matthew Power

The Independent

“Taking as its theme the use of psalms in choral music, this anthology links the liturgies of Jewish and Christian traditions, represented respectively by Leonard Bernstein’s “£Chichester Psalms”? and various European strains from Byrd and Allegri to Purcell and Parry. Incorporating leftover music from West Side Story, Bernstein employs organ, harp and percussion as he extends a theme of peace and unity between nations from the opening “£Jubilate”?, to the restful uplift of Psalm 131. The organ can sometimes hang too heavily over the pieces by Wesley and Parry. But the highlight is the beautiful version of Allegri’s “£Miserere mei, Dues”?, with its solo treble soaring high and weightless likes the vaulting of a cathedral.”

Andy Gill

  1. Chichester Psalms: Psalm 102: 2; Psalm 100 – Leonard Bernstein – 4.07
  2. Chichester Psalms: Psalm 23; Psalm 2: 1-4 – Leonard Bernstein – 5.59
  3. Chichester Psalms: Psalm 131; Psalm 133: 1 – Leonard Bernstein – 8.50
  4. Miserere mei, Deus (ed. John Rutter) – Gregorio Allegri – 12.27
  5. Teach me, O Lord – William Byrd – 3.40
  6. Ascribe unto the Lord – Samuel S. Wesley – 14.43
  7. Thy word is a lantern unto my feet, Z. 61 – Henry Purcell – 5.14
  8. Hear my words, ye people – C. Hubert H. Parry – 15.14