Regent Hall Songsters CD



Jan Ambrose reviews Regent Hall Songsters’ latest CD

Regular attendees at the Rink will be unsurprised by the excellent standard of singing on Cantate (translation: sing). There is also a variety of items suitable for everyone’s taste – meditative, joyful, long-established favourites and recent contributions. Unaccompanied singing ranges from Eric Ball/Albert Orsborn’s timeless classic, “In the secret of Thy presence” to the raw beauty of John Tavener’s “The Lamb”.

The opening track features the uninhibited singing of Richard Phillips’ “Sing for joy”, his musical arrangement of the words of Psalm 95. Major John Martin, a prolific composer, is a former Songster Leader of the brigade, and it is good to see so many of his compositions and arrangements included; one such item, “Cruel nails”, is a perfect marriage of John’s music to Stephen Poxon’s poetry and a stark and dramatic  portrayal of the Easter story.

The title track, “Cantate Domino”, is an exciting inclusion to this excellent CD, featuring the words, firstly sung in Latin and then in English: Cantate Domino canticum novum, Cantate Domino omnium terra (Sing to the Lord, Sing a new song, Sing to the Lord, Sing all the earth).

Regent Hall Songster Brigade is blessed with some excellent soloists and it is good to hear them in three items: Nick Hampton, in his thought-provoking contribution, “Arms open wide” reminds us of the tremendous sacrifice of Jesus’ death on the cross, concluding with the lovely words: “Amazing love, how can it be that you, my God would die for me.” The glorious voice of Kerry Sampson soars up effortlessly to improbably high notes in the anthem, “All rise”, while Nathanael Watchorn sings “No other name”. Nathanael has an easy-to-listen-to voice, which is probably why the listener will have the song in their head all day after hearing it.

The beautiful words of Major Julian Watchorn (father of Nathanael), “Help me to see you, Lord” arranged by Earle Ivers, are a reminder of how we need the presence of God as we journey through life, with its good times, challenges and disappointments.  Julian’s profound words underline the fact that we need to go deeper in the knowledge of God, at whichever stage we may be on our personal road.

This CD is complemented by notes explaining the importance of singing as a means of praising God, together with a brief history of Regent Hall Songster Brigade and how singing forms a part of worship at the Regent Hall Salvation Army, the only church in Oxford Street. Helpfully, the lyrics of each song are included, which may be used as an aid to personal devotion.

Praise must be given to both the Songsters and Deputy Songster Leader Mark Walton for their hard work in the compilation of this CD. Mark, who has been Deputy Songster Leader since 2010, has recently taken a far bigger role in the leadership of the Songsters and prepared the brigade for this recording. Former Songster Leader Major John Martin is now undertaking doctoral studies and working towards the completion of his thesis into the effects of music on The Salvation Army’s mission objectives. John is now Associate Officer at Staines Corps and part-time chaplain at Heathrow Airport. For the past six years, John has been part of the team that has led Regent Hall Songster Brigade. He and his wife Yoma have been hardworking members of the corps and we wish them well for the future.

I first listened to Cantate when I was in the early stages of recovery from a serious illness. We are not promised an easy road on the Christian pathway, and I was encouraged and blessed at a very dark time in my life by the message contained in this CD. May God bless the continuing ministry of the Regent Hall Songsters.


Let the race begin