Christmas at Trinity – A CD worth revisiting

This was the first (and final) recording I did on Trinity Wall Street’s organ before the September 11th tragedy.  When the holidays come around I get it out, dust it off and enjoy it afresh.  Here is what the American Record Guide had to say about it:

Christmas at Trinity  – 23 Christmas Carols – Choir of Trinity Church, New York/Owen Burdick, dir., Sean Jackson, org – Naxos 555886- 72 minutes

Hats off to Director Owen Burdick, organist Sean Jackson, and the Trinity Church Choir for this lovely and distinguished collection of Christmas music!

Many of these selections are taken from the rich English carol tradition (‘Sans Day Carol’, ‘The Holly and the Ivy’, ‘Sussex Carol’, and a great personal favorite, Boris Ord’s ‘Adam Lay Ybounden’). Several have been artfully rearranged in new musical settings of the old melodies or, in other instances, completely retained.  Composer-arrangers of this latter type are David Willcocks, Harold Darke, William Mathias, and others.  Some selections are known by almost everyone (‘Hark! The Herald Angels Sing’), some are obscure (‘I Sing of a Maiden’), and several have been drawn from other traditions (‘In Dulci Jubilo’, “Infant Holy’, ‘I Wonder as I Wander’, ‘Gabriel’s Message’).

The choir sings all of these with faultless intonation, color, marvelous blend, precision and above all, astonishing clarity of diction.  Printed words in the booklet are superfluous.  It is a pleasure of the rarest kind to hear such singing.  For the accompanied carols, Sean Jackson plays the organ expertly, and the balance of organ and voices is ideal.  The soloists sing impeccably, too.

Owen Burdick has said that his goal was to achieve a distinctly American recording of these pieces, with American pronunciation, without any attempt to emulate the sound of a British choir of men and boys.  This he has achieved, though here and there a British vowel can be heard and the choral sound is fairly straight and pure-not entirely dissimilar to the sound of boy sopranos and altos.

The Naxos engineers have contrived to make this recording, made in Trinity Church, sound even better than the sound in Trinity really is; it is a good but not especially resonant room.

If you seek a distinctive, exceptional program of Christmas music, you can scarcely do better than this one which deserves to become a collector’s item.  The recording was made in February 2001. With the realization of the unspeakable horrors Trinity Church and its staff endured on September 11 of that year, this may well awaken in listeners a deep and troubling, if unintended, pathos.


American Record Guide, November/December Edition 2002

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