Ceremonial Oxford

Music for the Georgian University by William Hayes
The Choir of Keble College, Oxford, Instruments of Time & Truth, Matthew Martin
crd 3534

Every now and then a CD comes along that makes one wonder why the music on it is not better known. That is precisely what happened here; I have known of William Hayes’s music (and that of his son, Philip) for decades (thanks to taking a course on “Handel and his English contemporaries” with David Kimbell), and more recently through an offer to publish editions of some of his instrumental music (including the G major concerto played here on organ), but I had never heard any of it except courtesy of the Sibelius playback feature. With the best will in the world, computers cannot (yet?) compete with human performance, most assuredly not when they are of this calibre – the lively playing of the orchestra (and the soloists) is well suited to accompanying the archetypically (in a good way!) stylish English collegiate choir. Hayes, 23 years Handel’s junior, builds solidly on the older man’s extension and expansion of choral repertoire, though there is no denying the essential Englishness of it all; there may be counterpoint (in many cases better worked that many of his generation), but his primary concern is to convey the mood (if not the meaning) of the words. The inclusion of an organ voluntary by an even more obscure composer (William Walond, who apparently played in performances of Hayes’s works) suggests a commitment to this repertoire that may bear further fruit. If you cannot wait until another CD appears, there will be three performances of Cosimo Stawiarski’s edition of The Fall of Jericho  in Utrecht this April.

Brian Clark