‘A Christmas Mass’
(On the Albulm Hark! Chantage At Christmas)
EMI Gold 5 099923 579620
…But if just one Christmas record is to be bought, and that to help along seasonable cheer among the family, it may well be that something with a wider appeal may be required. Radio 3’s Choir of the Year, Chantage, may be the one to oblige, with a friendly mixture of old and new, and most engagingly new is Ronald Corp’s Christmas Mass, which incorporates (at a guess) references to about 30 carols in its course from ‘Kyrie Eleison’ to ‘Agnus Dei’.
John Steane, Gramophone (Christmas discs round-up), December 2008
Readers who know and love Marc-Antoine Charpentier’s wonderful Messe de minuit pour Noë̈l may have regretted the apparent absence of any other choral work which is similarly suitable for both liturgical and concert performance during the Christmas season, and which lends itself to performance by competent, non-virtuosic choirs. Well, such a work has recently appeared: this very attractive Mass setting by Ronald Corp, who is himself well-known as a conductor (of, among others, the Highgate Choral Society and the New London Children’s Choir) and composer, especially of choral works.
In an accompanying note the composer, frustrated at not recognising the French carols used by Charpentier, explains that he had long wished to write a Mass which might use Christmas music which present-day singers would recognise; and, in this instance, he has undoubtedly succeeded. Seventy or so carols and hymns are used, some of which ‘provided important thematic material’ while others ‘make only a brief appearance’. Thus, for instance, ‘Veni, veni, Emmanuel’ – aptly placed within the Mass’s opening movement, the Kyrie eleison – is prevalent in the framing ‘Kyrie’ sections (‘In dulci jubilo’ provides the main material in the central ‘Christe’). Four other familiar carols which make fleeting appearances in this movement, notably in the accompaniment, are the Sussex Carol, ‘Shepherds in the fields abiding’, ‘Here we come a-wassailing’, and Resonet in laudibus. And so it is with succeeding movements in this Latin-texted setting, where some carols pass by so quickly that one scarcely notices them, while others assume a far more persistent, organic role.
The placement of some particular carols, at strategic points within the Mass, seems especially appropriate when the texts of the original works are taken into consideration. Thus – besides ‘Veni, veni, Emmanuel’, already mentioned – the Coventry Carol seems especially poignant in its association here with the words ‘Crucifixus…passus, et sepultus est’ from the Credo, while, just before it, the gentle, soothing melody of ‘Rocking’ provides a perfect accompaniment to words describing Our Lord’s incarnation.
Notwithstanding such solemn or reflective moments, this Mass is predominantly jubilant in character, as its composer intended it to be. The whole work is extremely tuneful and attractive to sing – and not simply because of the familiarity or melodiousness of its thematic material. Competent church choirs and chamber choirs who have a proficient accompanist should find this delightful work well within their grasp. While suitable for seasonal carol services, and even more so for concerts, liturgical use of A Christmas Mass is certainly a possibility in those churches where a Latin setting is acceptable, and where the potential distractions of tune-spotting by congregations are not perceived as a threat to their spiritual well-being!
Roger Wilkes, The Bell, Winter 2010
The perfect accompaniment to Christmas, this is the second CD from award-winning choir Chantage. It includes a sublime selection of modern carols, alongside reworkings of classic favourites, as well as a world première recording [i.e. A Christmas Mass].
Chantage was formed in 1999 by its Musical Director James Davey, and quickly established itself in London as a stylish and energetic young chamber choir. It draws singers from all over the country and from all walks of life. Strong commitment from its members has helped forge a growing reputation as an outstanding amateur choir with a national reputation.
Chantage performs a wide range of repertoire, programming works traditionally performed by English chamber choirs alongside lesser known works sourced from foreign choral cultures. More recently Chantage has been experimenting with group vocal percussion and other unusual contemporary styles. There is something for everyone at each Chantage performance, and the choir will take on any vocal challenge.
The choir supports young composers, regularly premiering new compositions and arrangements, many being written by its members. Chantage also encourages self-improvement through regular workshops, enabling members to learn vocal techniques, and new styles of music. The choir regularly performs across the United Kingdom and collaborates with choirs of all types, particularly school and youth choirs. As well as being invited to sing at a number of choral conventions, Chantage has also performed for a number of television and radio broadcasts.