Hear My Words


Hear my words ye people by Hubert Parry, a former chorister at Eton College is the first track on the album featuring some of the bestloved anthems in the church repertoire, beautifully performed by the Eton College Chapel Choir.

The choir, formed in the 14th-Century has changed a great deal since the choir school was succeeded by a music scholarship system, designed to facilitate talented choristers with their education. Although life has changed at Eton, the music passed down over five hundred years still possesses a power to stir.


What people are saying

“None of these young voices is anything less than impressive, and several are quite distinguished” Gramophone

” … the chief impression one is left with after hearing this disc is the excellence and polish of the choir … this is a fine and very enjoyable disc. The performance standard is uniformly very high” MusicWeb International

Ralph Allwood director
David Goode organ

Release date:4th Feb 2008
Order code:SIGCD115
Barcode: 635212011522

Gramophone, April 2008

Any member of any cathedral or half-decent Anglican church choir should know most of these anthems. Others may question the booklet’s assertion that they are “best-loved anthems in the church repertoire”, although bearing in mind the strong Etonian associations in the programme, there may be a hint of the parochial about that. Nevertheless even the less familiar items here (among these we must count Malcolm Boyle’s ravishing Thou, O God art praised in Sion, for my money one of the hidden wonders of the 20th-century English anthem) should quickly become “best-loved” given these fresh-faced performances by a choir which proudly assert their all-maleness in an age where such things are becoming frighteningly rare.

The programme focuses on the treble voice and clearly Eton is blessed with a generous supply of these, with no fewer than nine assigned various solos. None of these young voices is anything less than impressive, and several are quite distinguished; it’s a treat to hear Joshua Cooter float sublimely over the Mary’s spinning-wheel accompaniment from the ever-sensitive David Goode in Stanford’s G major Magnificat, while Adam Berman holds his head high in the august company of Ernst Lough et al in that hoary (but lovely) old chestnut, O for the wings of a dove. Top accolade for me however, has to go to the magnificent Laudete Dominum of Tom Norrington; a voice of real power and artistry.

As always with a choir in their teens, a certain lack of weight and resonance is evident from the tenors and basses. But with Ralph Allwood at the helm, such flaws are suppressed and, in any case, the obvious enthusiasm and commitment more than compensates for any vocal imperfections.

Marc Rochester

MusicWeb International, April 2008

There are two threads running through this programme. One is that of music by composers who have connections with Eton College. Both Parry and Malcolm Boyle were pupils at the school while Henry Ley served on the staff.

The other thread, and a more pronounced one, is a celebration of the treble voice. The Eton choir has trebles in the age range 13 to 15 years, whereas most cathedral choirs will have quite a few boys who are much younger than this and, perhaps, only a small number at the upper end of the age range for trebles. Indeed, several of the soloists on this disc came to Eton after serving as choristers in some of England’s more notable Anglican choirs, including that of King’s College, Cambridge. I think the maturity of the Eton treble section is an important element in its overall sound.

The choir consists almost entirely of pupils – I suspect from the choir listing that one member, an alto, is a master. That does mean that the tenors and basses will be aged, I imagine, between 16 and 18. That does have an implication in that there are just a few occasions in the bigger pieces where one feels a lack of vocal weight in the lower parts. I noticed this at times in the Stanford Magnificat, in the Boyle setting and in I was glad. To be honest this factor didn’t weigh too heavily with me but it’s worth mentioning as other listeners may be more worried by this than I was.

However, the chief impression one is left with after hearing this disc is the excellence and polish of the choir. Mind you, I’m not at all surprised at this given that the choir training is in the expert hands of Ralph Allwood. He has built a formidable – and deserved – reputation as one of the finest choral trainers in the UK and he is particularly successful in his work with younger singers, as witnessed by the superb Rodolfus Choir, which is one of other choirs that he directs.

David Goode, the College’s Organist – and a well-known virtuoso recitalist in his own right – comments in his booklet note that the choir as constituted for this recording contained a particularly rich crop of treble voices. That judgement is amply borne out by what we hear from the various soloists. Without exception they sing splendidly and with no little intelligence and if I don’t mention any of their contributions individually that does not imply that the singer or singers in question are less than first rate.

Among the solos that particularly caught my eye were those by Joshua Cooter in the glorious Stanford Magnificat and by Adam Berman in the Franck. The latter is a piece to which I don’t usually warm but when the solo is sung with such clarity and purity it’s a pleasure to hear. Adam Berman reappears in O for the wings of a dove. He’s the latest in a very long line of trebles to essay this piece, a line that begins with Master Ernest Lough. I doubt young Adam need fear comparisons, certainly not among the recordings I’ve heard, for he sings this plum from the treble repertoire very well indeed.

Two of the pieces contain especially demanding solos. Stanford’s A Song of Wisdom demands intelligence as well as excellent technique and Alex Roberts displays both. But for me the finest singing of all in this feast of trebles comes from Tom Norrington in Mozart’s Laudate Dominum. This gem is a challenge even for vastly experienced sopranos. Tom displays enviable breath control and makes a lovely open sound. He projects the solo line confidently and pitches every note right in the middle. The grace with which he sings the final phrases – that exquisite ‘Amen’ – is particularly pleasing.

There’s one other soloist on the disc, baritone Alex Jones, to whom falls the demanding, extended solo in Parry’s Hear my words, ye people. When I listened to the disc for the first time, prior to a detailed reading of the booklet, I thought an adult, probably a member of staff, had taken the solo but in fact Alex Jones is a pupil. The sound that he produces is strong and mature and he makes a very positive impression. This substantial Parry anthem is well done by the choir as a whole. Parry is probably the most distinguished musical alumnus of Eton College; he was a pupil there between 1861 and 1866. His celebrated I was glad makes a majestic conclusion to the programme.

Much less well known is the music of Malcolm Boyle, who was a chorister at Eton, probably in the second decade of the twentieth century, I presume. He went on to serve as Organist of Chester Cathedral (1932-1949). His anthem is a setting of words from Psalm 65 and the prophecy of Isaiah. It opens confidently, the music forthright in tone. Later on there’s a fine, extended melody for unison trebles at the words “Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace.” The grand ending is enhanced by the contribution of David Goode at the console of the chapel’s fine organ – but that’s true of every accompanied piece on this CD. Anyone who likes the church music of Parry or Stanford should warm to this piece by Boyle and I’m pleased to have made its acquaintance.

Much better known is Henry Ley’s A Prayer of King Henry VI. This lovely little piece is known at Eton as the Founder’s Prayer because, of course, the author of the text, King Henry VI, founded Eton College in 1440 – and also founded its sister establishment, King’s College, Cambridge. The authorship of the text alone would have made it appropriate to include this piece here but Henry Ley was a predecessor of Ralph Allwood, serving as Eton’s Precentor and Director of Music from 1926-1945. His exquisite miniature is expertly served by the present incumbent and by today’s crop of choristers.

In summary, this is a fine and very enjoyable disc. The performance standard is uniformly very high and the engineers have provided very good sound. If the programme appeals then collectors can invest in confidence.

John Quinn

Choir & Organ, July/ August 2008

On the evidence of Hear My Words, Ralph Allwood has an embarassement of riches at his disposal. Each of his nine(!) treble soloists performs superbly and his choir of young voices makes an impressive sound. From Stamford’s Magnificat in G to Mozart’s ‘Laudatte Dominum’, the programme is chosen to highlight the character of treble voice, but the full glory of Eton chapel’s choir, organ and ambience is laid bare in Hear my words, ye people and I was glad by Eton old-boy Charles Hubert Parry.

Matthew Simpkins

  1. Hear my words, ye people – Hubert Parry – 15.03
  2. Teach me, O Lord – William Byrd – 3.23
  3. Magnificat in G – Charles Villiers Stanford – 3.57
  4. Benedictus from Missa Brevis Sancti Joannis de Deo Hob XXII/7 (Little Organ Mass) – Joseph Haydn – 4.24
  5. Thou, O God, art praised in Sion – Malcolm Boyle – 6.04
  6. Lord, let me know mine end – Maurice Greene – 5.34
  7. A Prayer of King Henry VI – Henry Ley – 1.53
  8. Laudate Dominum from Vesperae solennes de Confessore KV339 – W.A. Mozart – 4.02
  9. Out of the deep – Thomas Tomkins – 4.06
  10. A Song of wisdom – Charles Villiers Stanford – 5.27
  11. Panis Angelicus from Messe Solennelle РC̩sar Franck Р3.58
  12. Hear my Prayer and O for the wings of a dove – Felix Mendelssohn – 11.19
  13. The Lord is my Shepherd – Lennox Berkeley – 4.28
  14. I was glad – Hubert Parry – 5.19

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