Orlando Gibbons: With a Merrie Noyse
Rogers Covey-Crump : discography

Harmonia Mundi HMU 907337

Playing time: 59'40

Recorded July 9-11, 2003,
at Magdalen College Chapel, Oxford



Orlando Gibbons: With a Merrie Noyse

Second Service & Consort Anthems

The Choir of Magdalen College, Oxford / Fretwork


 1.  This is the record of John [4:18] 
 2.  Almighty and everlasting God [2:21] 
 3.  A Voluntary [2:08] 

The Second Service (Morning)
 4.  Te Deum [10:47] 
 5.  Jubilate [4:21] 

 6.  Hymns and Songs for the Church - Song 1 [1:19] 
 7.  A Fancy for the Double Organ [5:41] 
 8.  Hymns and Songs for the Church - Song 9 [0:56] 

The Second Service (Evening)
 9.  Magnificat [6:06] 
 10.  Nunc dimittis [3:30] 

 11.  O Clap your hands together [5:48] 
 12.  Great King of Gods [4:25] 
 13.  See, see, the Word is incarnate [6:17] 


The Choir of Magdalen College, Oxford
Bill Ives director
Rogers Covey-Crump contratenor
Steven Harrold contratenor
Peter Harvey baritone
Stephen Connolly bass
Jonathan Hardy organ


The Choir of Magdalen College, Oxford, led by Bill Ives, is joined by Rogers Covey-Crump, other distinguished soloists, and Fretwork, for a program of sacred music by Orlando Gibbons. Regarded as one of the greatest English composers of the early 17th century, Gibbons enjoyed an illustrious career at the court of King James I as a 'Gentleman of the Chapel Royal' and was appointed organist of Westminster Abbey two years before his untimely death in 1625. His Second Service and three of his verse anthems (This is the Record of John; Great king of Gods; See, see the Word is incarnate - recorded here with viols for the first time) are heard in new editions prepared by Dr David Skinner.


How can you go wrong with Fretwork and Orlando Gibbons? You can't--and when you add the bright, resonant sonority and consummate style of Oxford's Choir of Magdalen College, you've got something really special, a celebration of great music and first-rate music making. In this case it's a program of some of Gibbons' most important and best-known church music, recorded in a way that faithfully captures the Magdalen chapel's acoustics and gives scintillating presence to voices and instruments. Right from the beginning--the classic verse-anthem This is the record of John--we're treated to the full magnificence of Gibbons' style, from the expressive countertenor solos to the lush choral passages and the overall text-affirming harmonic framework. Unlike most recordings of this repertoire, this one incorporates a viol consort--arguably the composer's intention--into the mix. Rather than a routine matter of doubling voices, evidence shows that Gibbons constructed independent instrumental parts, both in imitative counterpoint and in homophonic accompaniment. The effect not only is sonically marvelous but the additional layers of texture and color elevate the music to a level that's both exhilarating and profoundly moving. (The Winchester Cathedral recording on Hyperion uses only organ, but the very full, resonant acoustic and spaciousness to the choral singing nevertheless makes an impressive statement.)

All of the works on this disc show evidence of Gibbons' genius, specifically the careful planning of counterpoint to support text, to preserve harmonic stability and balance, and to create powerful, arching dynamic structures, this alternating with solo-voice passages and stretches of solid homophonic blocks of sound for choir and/or instruments. Among the defining masterpieces such as the Second Service (particularly the Magnificat and Nunc dimittis), This is the record of John, and the full anthem Almighty and everlasting God, we're also treated to hymns such as Song 1 (here set to its original text) and, for me the highlight of the disc, the verse anthem Great King of Gods, a glorious masterpiece of choral writing and sacred text-setting that gives a good name to all the church music of this period and place.

The Choir of Magdalen College, Oxford and Fretwork give sumptuous, vital performances that capture the essence of Gibbons' unique, harmonically rich music, and the solo singing--especially from the countertenors and trebles--is nothing short of wonderful. After years of listening to and performing Gibbons' church music, I can truly say that at last here's a recording that does full justice to these splendid yet often routinely rendered scores, and although it may be too early to make such pronouncements, this definitely is a disc-of-the-year contender. [3/2/2004]

--David Vernier (classicstoday.com)