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Britten: A Ceremony of Carols; St. Nicolas / Holst Singers; Trinity College Choir. Stephen Layton

Album Summary

>Britten, Benjamin : A Ceremony of Carols, Op. 28
>Britten, Benjamin : Saint Nicholas, cantata for tenor, treble, choruses & orchestra, Op. 42
Performers Conductor Ensembles Composer

Notes & Reviews:

Stephen Layton leads the Choir of Trinity College, Cambridge and the Holst Singers in two of Benjamin Britten's most popular choral works for Christmastide. The cantata Saint Nicolas tells the story of the original Santa Claus, a fourth-century saint whose altruistic acts led to his canonization as patron saint of children and sailors. Britten's lively setting is distinctly operatic, full of atmosphere and color. The part of Nicolas (here sung magnificently by Allan Clayton, already acclaimed as the heir to Peter Pears and Anthony Rolfe Johnson) is one of Britten's great heroic tenor roles. A Ceremony of Carols is a setting for treble voices and harp of some of the Medieval texts that Britten loved so much, and is heard every Christmas in cathedrals, churches and concert halls throughout the world. This fresh, sparkling performance completes a thoroughly festive release.

American Record Guide
One of the best mixed choirs of their kind... highly trained and disciplined young voices of outstanding quality.

Financial Times, 10th November 2012
A Christmas disc to savour.

The Arts Desk, 17th November 2012
Layton's singers do project beautifully, and their sheer security makes this Ceremony a gorgeous, invigorating experience...The moment when the adult Nicolas (beautifully sung by tenor Allan Clayton) suddenly reveals himself in The Birth of Nicolas will induce goose pimples of delight in sceptical listeners.

Gramophone Magazine, December 2012
Layton's flowing speeds underline the dramatic sequence of the carols...All the solo performances are impeccably shaped and harpist Sally Pryce makes light work of the fiendish accompaniments...Allan Clayton makes the role of Nicolas entirely his own. What a glorious voice!...The hearty sailors, Pickled Boys and St Trinian's-like piano duettists are all on top form. This is a beautiful and deeply affecting recording.

Sunday Times, 30th September 2012
Layton's soprano and mezzos affect a purity that sounds "boyish"...Clayton's Nicolas is more youthful-sounding than his predecessors (Pears, Tear, Langridge), but Layton captures the mystery-play-like drama of the saint's life story.

American Record Guide, November/December 2013
Hyperion combines a 2007 recording from Cambridge of Ceremony with a 2012 recording of St Nicolas from All Hallows Church, Gospel Oak, London. The Cambridge and Holst ensembles are composed of adult women and men. Only the Trinity women sing the Ceremony, a bright, jolly performance. For St Nicolas the adult Holsts are joined by the Boys of the Temple Church Choir. A brilliant treble boy (Luke McWatters) portrays young Nicolas, with an assertive Allan Clayton as older Nicolas. It's a charming affair.


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Works Details

>Britten, Benjamin : A Ceremony of Carols, Op. 28
  • Performer: Sally Price (Harp)
  • Conductor: Stephen Layton
  • Ensemble: Trinity College Choir, Cambridge
  • Notes: Trinity College Chapel, Cambridge, England (09/10/2007-09/13/2007)
  • Running Time: 22 min. 7 sec.
  • Period Time: Modern
  • Form: Christmas
  • Written: 1942

>Britten, Benjamin : Saint Nicholas, cantata for tenor, treble, choruses & orchestra, Op. 42
  • Performers: Jeremy Cole (Organ); Catherine Edwards (Piano); Jonathan Higgins (Piano)
  • Conductor: Stephen Layton
  • Notes: All Hallows Church, Gospel Oak, London, England (01/15/2012-01/16/2012)
  • Running Time: 47 min. 9 sec.
  • Period Time: Modern
  • Form: Cantata/Oratorio
  • Written: 1948