Sheppard: Gaude, Gaude, Gaude Maria / Sheppard, Choir of St John's College Cambridge

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Not much is known about the English composer John Sheppard. When he was born, and where he grew up, is lost to history but most scholars place his birth at somewhere between 1515 and 1520. This places him in one of the most turbulent periods in English church history, something that can be heard on this disc in the wide stylistic range he used in order to adapt to the quickly changing politics of the day. The sophisticated six part texture of Gaude, gaude, gaude Maria suggests the influence of Queen Mary who encouraged elaborate sacred composition. It is one of Sheppard’s most thrilling and ambitious works. On the other hand, Christ rising again reflects Thomas Cranmer’s insistence on musical simplicity but demonstrates the genius with which Sheppard explores the limits of expressive power with only the most restricted means. The works are performed by the Choir of St John’s College, Cambridge under the directorship of Andrew Nethsingha. One of the finest men and boys choirs in the world, it is known and loved by millions from its recordings, broadcasts, and concert tours. The choir has been a cornerstone of the great English choral tradition since the 1670s and is recognized for its distinctive, rich, and expressive sound.


This is a very nice disc: beautifully sung; a well-balanced recording in both stereo and a warmly inclusive surround sound, and with a rich selection of John Sheppard’s superb music. What on earth could there be to complain about?

Styles of choral singing differ, and long may this remain. The comparisons I’ve tended to admire most in this music have been of the purer, reduced-vibrato angelic type. This is all a matter of taste, and I can easily become used to the St John’s College sound in these works, though with plenty of vibrato in the singing the word ‘fruity’ constantly springs to mind. I’m not anti-vibrato as such, but these works have such a refinement of counterpoint and polyphony that I find it hard to come to terms with a technical approach which clouds such marvels.

All that said, this is a very fine program, and if you like the general choral sound then there are good musical experiences to be had. Simpler works such as the four-part In pace, in idipsum dormiam create nice moods, but there was no point in this album that my world stopped turning and I was left speechless with the wonder of it all - and I know this can all too easily happen to me with John Sheppard’s music.

– MusicWeb International (Dominy Clements)

Product Description:

  • Catalog Number: CHSA 0401

  • UPC: 095115040126

  • Label: Chandos

  • Composer: John Sheppard

  • Conductor: Andrew Nethsingha

  • Performer: Edward Picton-Turbervill, Freddie James, Geoffrey Clapham, Guy Edmund-Jones, John Clapham, John Holland-Avery, Kieran Brunt, Sam Oladeinde, Xavier Hetherington