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For the past 25 years Crouch End Festival Chorus, under conductor David Temple, has been prolific in the recording studio and appears on well over 100 recordings. The variety of genres is remarkable and sets the chorus apart from all other choirs. This short selection is based on a few commercial recordings as well as excerpts from live recordings of the chorus’s own concerts.

With thanks to Silva Screen Records, Chandos Records and BBC Radio 3 for permission to use tracks.

J.S. Bach: St John Passion (extracts)
Robert Murray, Evangelist; Ashley Riches, Christ; Sophie Bevan, soprano; Neal Davies, bass; Crouch End Festival Chorus; Bach Camerata; David Temple
℗ & © 2017 Chandos Records Ltd

Recording one of J.S. Bach’s Passions in English was a risk in the current climate of authentic small-choir performances in German, but – as the many reviews have underlined – it paid off: the directness of the English translation is hugely compelling for an English-speaking audience, as are the agility and power of the choral singing.

“I must confess that – given a long-held preference for listening to (and performing) works in their original tongue – I was prepared to scoff at such an affront to Bach’s intentions. However, by the end of the opening chorus and the Evangelist’s first gripping appearance I was completely hooked.” Malcolm Riley, Gramophone

 

Ennio Morricone: The Mission: On Earth as it is in Heaven
Crouch End Festival Chorus; City of Prague Philharmonic Orchestra; conducted by David Temple & Paul Bateman
℗ & © 2006 Silva Screen Records Ltd

This music from The Mission (starring Robert De Niro and Jeremy Irons) was one of CEFC’s first recordings for Silva Screen Records. Between 2001 and 2018, the chorus worked with Ennio Morricone on many occasions and he is one of its patrons.

 

Britten: A Ceremony of Carols: This Little Babe
Sally Pryce, harp; Crouch End Festival Chorus; David Temple
Recorded live at St Michael’s Church, Highgate, 2011

Benjamin Britten here creates an extraordinary echo effect by eventually overlapping the three choral parts – simple yet incredibly effective! When all singers buy into the style of singing required for this music, it is possible to achieve this level of clarity and effervescence even with a large choir.

 

Walton: Belshazzar’s Feast: In Babylon (extract)
Crouch End Festival Chorus; Hertfordshire Chorus; The Dessoff Choirs; London Orchestra da Camera; David Temple
Recorded live at the Royal Festival Hall, London, 2013

Crouch End Festival Chorus joined Hertfordshire Chorus and The Dessoff Choirs for this thrilling concert at the Royal Festival Hall: this clip demonstrates not only the power of the 300 voices but also their amazing clarity of words. Walton uses the choir as if it were a brass orchestra – with brashness, attack and precision.

 

Danny Elfman: Edward Scissorhands: Main Title and Ice Dance
Crouch End Festival Chorus; City of Prague Philharmonic Orchestra; conducted by David Temple & Nic Raine
℗ & © 2006 Silva Screen Records Ltd

The sopranos and altos of Crouch End Festival Chorus produce a clean and beautiful sound that repeatedly attracts film and recording companies to work with the choir. This sparkling, balletic track from the successful film Edward Scissorhands conjures up an immediately magical atmosphere.

 

Ryan Latimer: Frigates & Folly: I. Oh! Jolly is the Gale – II. In Old England (extract)
Commissioned by Crouch End Festival Chorus
BBC Concert Orchestra; Crouch End Festival Chorus; David Temple
Recorded live at the Barbican Hall, London by BBC Radio 3, 2018

This recent work by Ryan Latimer, taking text from Herman Melville’s Moby-Dick, is one the chorus’s most successful and enjoyable commissions. Both words and music convey a wit rarely heard in choral music.

 

Bernstein: West Side Story: America (extract)
Helen Hobson, Anita; Crouch End Festival Chorus; City of Prague Philharmonic Orchestra; conducted by David Temple & Paul Bateman
℗ & © 2010 Silva Screen Records Ltd

The CEFC singers on this recording were selected for their thespian qualities! The choral sound is a world away from that of Handel or Elgar and shows the choir revelling in variety.

 

Elgar: The Dream of Gerontius (extracts)
Crouch End Festival Chorus; London Mozart Players; David Temple
Recorded live at Queen Elizabeth Hall, Southbank Centre, London, 2019

Elgar is a particular favourite of conductor David Temple. These two short excerpts (‘Be merciful, be gracious’ and the ‘Demons Chorus’) could not be more contrasting. They are taken from a live ‘archive’ recording with the London Mozart Players.

 

Dimitri Tiomkin: The Alamo: Tennessee Babe
Crouch End Festival Chorus; David Temple
℗ & © 2010 Silva Screen Records Ltd

Crouch End Festival Chorus enjoys displaying a coat of many colours, and one of the most challenging styles it has been required to adopt was that of a 1950s Hollywood Western choir. This is as far away from the English choral tradition as you can possibly get!

 

Philip Glass: Songs from Liquid Days: Open the Kingdom
Crouch End Festival Chorus; National Sinfonia; David Temple
℗ & © Silva Screen Records Ltd

‘Open the Kingdom’ from Philip Glass’s Songs from Liquid Days sets words by David Byrne, imagining the journey to death. It puts a spotlight on the tenors and basses of the chorus! With its mesmeric, powerful repetition it gives us a typical Philip Glass soundscape, in which the build-up of textures and cross-rhythms reach a wonderful climax.

 

Mahler: Symphony No. 8: Finale (extract)
Naomi Harvey, soprano 1; Lynda Russell, soprano 2; Eileen Hulse, soprano 3; Julia Batchelor, alto 1, Kathryn Turpin, alto 2; Jeffrey Lloyd Roberts, tenor; Ashley Holland, baritone; Graeme Danby, bass-baritone; Finchley Children’s Music Group; Crouch End Festival Chorus; Hertfordshire Chorus; Forest Philharmonic Orchestra; David Temple
Recorded live at the Royal Festival Hall, Southbank Centre, London, 2003

The dynamic and interpretative extremes required in Mahler’s music are well represented in this extract. Large choirs (and there were 250 singers here) are certainly capable of raising the roof but can also produce the most meltingly beautiful pianissimo.

“David Temple... brought great vitality and urgency to his reading and has proved himself to be an instinctive and insightful Mahlerian. This performance was an outstanding achievement for all concerned.” Alex Russell, MusicWeb International

 

Ennio Morricone: The Good, the Bad and the Ugly: The Ecstasy of Gold
Crouch End Festival Chorus; City of Prague Philharmonic Orchestra; conducted by David Temple & Derek Wadsworth
℗ & © 2004 Silva Screen Records Ltd

This iconic track is well loved by many in the rock and pop world, in particular by MUSE and Noel Gallagher. When Morricone performs (several times with CEFC), this is almost always included in the encores!

 

Parry: I Was Glad
Crouch End Festival Chorus; Hertfordshire Chorus; The Dessoff Choirs; London Orchestra da Camera; David Temple
Recorded live at the Royal Festival Hall, London, 2013

This gem of a piece was performed at the 1953 Coronation of Elizabeth II. Recorded live as part of a concert celebrating the anniversary of this event, the performance includes the ‘Vivat’ section, which is often omitted from concert performances.

 

John Williams: Saving Private Ryan: Hymn to the Fallen
Crouch End Festival Chorus; City of Prague Philharmonic Orchestra; conducted by David Temple & Paul Bateman
℗ & © 2006 Silva Screen Records Ltd

For much of the music in its uniquely eclectic repertoire, the choir works to achieve the right sound, but this track represents the natural sound of Crouch End Festival Chorus: clean, warm, beautiful and passionate!

 

Will Todd: Rage against the dying of the light: II. Do Not Go (extract)
Commissioned by Crouch End Festival Chorus
Crouch End Festival Chorus; Forest Philharmonic Orchestra; David Temple
Recorded live at the Barbican Hall, London, 2014

Will Todd’s vibrant new work celebrated two anniversaries: Dylan Thomas’s centenary and Crouch End Festival Chorus’s 30th birthday. This driving and violent movement represents the uneasy journey from life to death.

 

Little Drummer Boy (Katherine Kennicott Davis / Henry Onorati / Harry Simeone)
Crouch End Festival Chorus; City of Prague Philharmonic Orchestra; conducted by David Temple & Paul Bateman
℗ & © 2015 Silva Screen Records Ltd

There is something simultaneously soothing, moving and inspiring about this carol. Sky Sports licensed this recording in 2017 and again in 2018 to launch its Christmas football programme.