Thomas Weelkes: Sacred Choral Music

Thomas Weelkes: Sacred Choral Music

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A survey of Weelkes’ services, verse anthems and sacred madrigals

Tewkesbury Abbey Schola Cantorum
Carleton Etherington organ
Benjamin Nicholas director

Born around 1575, Thomas Weelkes is remembered as one of the outstanding English composers of the seventeenth century. This survey of Weelkes’ services, verse anthems and sacred madrigals features first recordings of several works in new reconstructions by scholar Peter James. Benjamin Nicholas’ Tewkesbury choir delivers telling performances passionately conveying the range, imagination and technical accomplishment of Weelkes’ settings.

It is very hard not to use superlatives when speaking of Ben Nicholas and his choir at Tewkesbury Abbey.
Choir Schools Today 2008

I’ve been consistently impressed by the work of Benjamin Nicholas and his Tewkesbury singers on the Delphian label. Their latest release turns to the work of Thomas Weelkes, a magnificent composer, infamous drunkard and organist of Chichester Cathedral in the early 1600s. It’s an absolute winner both in terms of repertoire and performance. The reverberant recorded sound is never short on detail, thanks not least to the full-blooded singing of Tewkesbury’s boy choristers and smart engineering. The choir’s men are on top form, too. Together, they catch the plangent quality of Weelkes’s work and its compelling energy. Terrific choral listening.
Classic FM

Schola Cantorum's new CD 'Thomas Weelkes' has been named a Gramophone 'Recommended Recording' in the April 2009 issue of Gramophone.

The disc was recorded in Dean Close School Chapel in May 2008. O vos omnes: in this instance, all you that customarily pass by without reading reviews of Tudor church music, thinking it (perhaps) skilful and lovely no doubt, but somewhat cool and impersonal. Weelkes is a composer to make you think again, and Tewkesbury Abbey currently has the choir to present him in strongest colours and with the most personal accent. Born around 1575, he was of the last generation of Elizabethans and wrote much of his church music in Jacobean times, so having a great musical inheritance to draw upon. And he did indeed pay what looks like conscious tribute in his music to such eminent predecessors as Byrd and Gibbons. There remains an intensity of passionate utterance in the most striking of his works, balanced by a sober moderation in much else. He himself, as we learn from contemporary accounts, was not characterised by either moderation or sobriety, at least in his latter years, coming to his choir "from the Taverne or Ale house" cursing and swearing "most dreadfully". You would never guess as much from the decorous verse anthems and evening canticles, but the intensity of the lament O Jonathan, which opens the present recital, might suggest a less bridled temperament, as might the concentrated fervour of Hosanna to the Son of David, which closes it. Under Benjamin Nicholas, director of the Abbey's Schola Cantorum, the choir has developed a strong style, remarkable for its sense of personal (or corporate) commitment as for the sonority of its tone and the assurance of its delivery. The trebles splendidly vindicate the tradition that places them at the heart of the English cathedral music. the men's voices are also powerful and resonant and the total effect is rich and forthright. If anything, the "standard" level of volume is set too high - it is not until the sixth item, O how amiable are thy dwellings, that we find reassurance that the choir can sing quietly. Fine solo work and neat organ-playing are further assets, as is the introductory note by Dr Peter James. He points out, incidentally, that O vos omnes and the Third Service are reconstructed from surviving parts, newly edited and recorded here for the first time.
John Steane, Gramaphone

Tewkesbury Abbey

The Schola Cantorum sing the weekday choral services at the Abbey.

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Dean Close Preparatory School

The choristers are all educated at Dean Close Preparatory School in Cheltenham.

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TASC Association

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