Paul Spicer
ChoirsPaul Spicer Choirs

'The Finzi Singers were formed in 1987 mainly to perform music by contemporary composers, and they have done so with conspicuous success…what shines through is a real sense of commitment.'
Bax and Howells
BBC Music Magazine


'The Finzi Singers perform with their usual refinement and polish.'
Moeran and Warlock
BBC Music Magazine

'The singing is often dramatically forthright in attack yet refined in timbre and perhaps more daring in its expressiveness than would be usual from a cathedral or chapel choir.'
Walton Choral Works
BBC Music Magazine

'Polished and expressive performances'
Holst and Vaughan Williams Choral Music
BBC Music Magazine

'The Finzi Singers give inspired, radiant, evocative performances in clear, wide-perspective sound, of Howells's smaller choral gems ranging across the span of his career. They demonstrate Howells's supreme craftsmanship, invention and versatility…A confident recommendation.'
Howells Choral Works
BBC Music Magazine

'The Finzi Singers reach new heights with their Leighton disc, demonstrating an impressive understanding of this elusive music.'
Choral Music of Kenneth Leighton
BBC Music Magazine Autumn 1997

'Although there are many recordings of this work (Howells's Take him, earth for Cherishing) this is arguably the most moving of all'.
(Bax and Howells)
CD Review

'The most obvious point of interest in this latest offering from Paul Spicer and his Finzi Singers on Chandos (an ever more fruitful partnership) is the first recording of Moeran's madrigal-suite Phyllida and Corydon, though in the listening it is the sheer variety of Peter Warlock's aural imagination which carries the day'.
(Moeran and Warlock)
CD Review

'…the superb diction of the Finzi Singers and tight focus of the choral sound'.
(Moeran and Warlock)
CD Review

'An outstandingly impressive choral sound - richly coloured and robust, invariably well-balanced, never timid. Consequently, the full swell and exuberance of the ceremonial pieces are vitally, thrillingly realised, whilst the sensitive, a cappella miniatures remain controlled and uncloyingly expressive. Excellent diction, accomplished solos…contribute to this release's unreserved excellence.'
(Walton Choral Works)
Classic CD Magazine

'The pieces sung with skill and verve by the Finzi Singers under Paul Spicer…'
Tippett Choral Music
Classic CD

'Vaughan Williams set this (A Vision of Aeroplanes) as a concerto with an organ swirling and pulsing as it conjours up the rhythm, bite and energy of aero engines. Listen to the Finzi Singers directed by Paul Spicer to experience the effect'.
Choral Music of Vaughan Williams and Howells
Classic CD Magazine

'Paul Spicer's Finzi Singers show a fine range of vocal style as they slip effortlessly from cunning arrangements of British Songs like Lilliburlero to the Sprituals from A Child of our Time. Sometimes British vocal groups are a bit too polite sounding to carry off spirituals, but the Finzis are both convincing and sensitive here, with "Deep River"sounding particularly rich. They're equally excellent on more conventional religious works like the beautiful Plebs Angelica and the spiky and playful Magnificat and Nunc Dimittis (on disc at last!). The Lullaby for six voices, a setting of W.B.Yeats written for the Deller Consort, is possibly the highest of highlights - delicious, entirely original harmonies (the musical language is close to King Priam), and individual sense of melody, performed impeccably. Spicer's control of tempo and dynamic is ideal throughout the whole programme'.
Tippett Choral Music
Jeremy Beadle, Classic CD Magazine

'Its essence, its consolation and its harder edges too (Howells's music), are beautifully caught here by the Finzi Singers and their director, Paul Spicer. Altogether a lovely and instructive disc for winding down to late at night.'
*****Performance
*****Sound
Howells Choral Works
Classic CD Magazine

'The Finzis…bring a welcome freshness and vitality to even the most familiar works. (They) achieve admirable technical security and clarity of texture, but not at the cost of the faceless uniform sound which some others favour. Theirs is full and forthright; individual voices are often audible, and none the worse for it.'
Britten Choral Edition Vol.1
Classic CD Magazine March 1997

'The Finzi Singers are the best small specialised choir I have heard since the heyday of Imogen Holst's Purcell Singers and are directed with outstanding musicianship by Paul Spicer'.
(The Hussey Legacy)
Gramophone

'Here is another excellent record by the Finzi Singers in a series which is proving as valuable as anything in the current lists'.
(Howells and Vaughan Williams)
Gramophone

'The Finzi Singers deliver the choral items beautifully and they are atmospherically recorded'.
(Sweet Echo)
Gramophone

'In performance, both of these (Bax's Mater ora filium and This worldes Joie) must be amongst the most taxing works in the choral repertoire. The Finzi Singers tackle them with outstanding success.'
(Bax and Howells)
Gramophone

'…always with the Finzi Singers there is a fine intelligence at work, and a scrupulous care for the texture of choral sound. And as ever, there is the prospect of uninterrupted delight in the programme itself.'
(Bax and Howells)
Gramophone

'Again the innate musicality of the Finzi Singers pays handsome dividends; these warm-toned, richly expressive voices seem to capture the very essence of this uniquely lovely music.'
(Moeran and Warlock)
Gramophone

'The Finzi Singers' freshness and liveliness is equally winning in bringing out the rich variety of Walton's inspiration in this field.'
(Walton Choral Works)
Gramophone

John Steane's Critic's Choice for 1993
Howells and Stevens (CHAN9021)
'For an hour's peace to meditate on the blessings of music at such instant command there is the first recording of two English Masses, one by Bernard Stevens, the other an early work of Howells, sung by the Finzi Singers whose records are earning their welcome as reliably as any.'
Gramophone

'All of this is beautifully brought off in performance. The Finzi Singers - and this seems to be habitual with them - work the music into their system, hear it as though in the collective mind's ear, and know then just what is required of them. The sforzando and diminuendo on the word 'heart' ("His heart is colder than the clay") in the last line, for instance (of 'My love dwelt in a northern land'), is here much more than an achievement of choral technique or discipline. This is a choir that does not sacrifice everything for blend or flawless homegeneity of tone: individual voices are audible from time to time. It wouldn't do in Palestrina, but in the music in which they specialise I find it preferable to the kind of tone in which the individuality of its members is subsumed in a mass identity. Their singing of Go, song of mine, which Michael Kennedy in his notes selects as Elgar's greatest work in the genre, meets the challenges with more than musical efficiency: it catches the inner spirit, the fine lift and fall of the Liebestod, the eloquent final punctuation mark of the chorded "Go!". A similar collection of these partsongs by Worcester singers under Donald Hunt…includes accompanied and unison pieces as well; but valuable as that is, there is much more imaginative style at work among the Finzi Singers, and the best of the partsongs are here.'
(Elgar Part Songs)
John Steane, Gramophone

'Where I expected to be voicing reservations was on the subject of repertory, since the record includes yet another version of the Sprituals…as well as the rather over-extended Songs from the British Isles. In the event, the Finzi Singers are so eloquent in the Spirituals, and so polished in the British Songs (especially the beguiling "Early one Morning") that complaints were all but stilled.'

'…Not only are the intonation and phrasing of the tricky lines supremely confident, but the accompanying organ is recorded with exemplary naturelness. The vocal sound throughout is no less successful. As for those Spirituals, I can't imagine them being better done'.
(Tippett Choral Music)
The Gramophone

'This is another exemplary addition to the Finzi Singers' ever-expanding discography…As we have come to expect from this partnership on record, these are splendidly fervent, finely disciplined performances. A hearty recommendation.'
Howells choral works
The Gramophone

'This is another excellent Chandos recording, a wonderfully coherent, living sound which hangs in space with the image set at an ideal distance. Each of the 18 voices is clearly identifiable, with superbly captured diction and clear but never over-emphasized sibilants. The organ too is very convincing - full and rounded in an ideal balance with the choir. And what a choir! It would be a hard heart indeed which did not melt before the sheer beauty of the final line, "In a cold, cold winter's night", of the last of Three Carol Anthems, "A Spotless Rose". This is a pretty spotless recording, too.
The Gramophone

'With two such expert choirs, both of them so successfully directed (comparison with the 16's recordings), the listener is unlikely to experience any great loss whichever is chosen, but, so far, comparisons encourage a marginal preference for this new recording. In the Hymn to St.Peter, the Finzis, taking a slightly quicker pace, have a more impulsive feeling, where the Sixteen are slightly square. In the Hymn to the Virgin the difference is greater, with the Sixteen dull by comparison. Andrew Lumsden's contribution (organ) may indeed help to tip the balance further in the Finzi's favour for he is constantly bringing out something in colour or rhythm that adds flavour and distinction.'
The Gramophone

'The performances have all that could be desired in textual responsiveness and technical control…a mostwelcome addition to the Finzi Singers' catalogue of highly valuable recordings.'
Choral Music of Kenneth Leighton
Gramophone Autumn 1997

'The Finzi Singers give a fresh and atmospheric, beautifully moulded performance'
(Howells/Vaughan Williams)
The Guardian

'…a redemptive performance by the Finzi Singers under Paul Spicer: a choir of real accomplishment that goes from strength to strength with every disc it makes'.
(Howells and Stevens)
Independent on Sunday

'…this revelatory new recording of partsongs for unaccompanied choir. Anyobody already interested in Elgar will appreciate the insight into his music provided by these songs, and by the lucid, brightly pointed performances of the Finzi Singers under Paul Spicer. This carefully selected programme (all the best is here) also offers the five male-voice partsongs from The Greek Anthology, which show off the lean, totally unprecious singing of the Finzi's men.'
(Elgar Part Songs)
Nominated for a Gramophone Award 1995
Hilary Finch, The Times

'The Finzi Singers project the music with intensity and with impeccable tuning, each piece shaped with loving care by their director, Paul Spicer.'
(Tippett Choral Music)
Stephen Pettitt, The Times

'The folksongs are done with style and affection - a lovely Early one Morning and a lithe, lissom Lilliburlero - and the spirituals are superbly sung.'
(Tippett Choral Music)
Hugh Canning, Sunday Times

'An intensley moving account of Purcell's funeral setting Man that is born of a woman'
(Aldeburgh Festival Concert 1995)
Daily Telegraph

'Walton's church music has been recorded before by various choirs. In few performances, let alone recordings, does it reach the vivacity which it finds on the Finzi Singers' new CD'.
(Walton Choral Works)
The Organists' Review

'The finest release yet from Paul Spicer's choir'
(Walton Choral Works)
The Organists' Review

'Paul Spicer's sympathetic interpretations explore many aspects of Britten's choral genius and he is able to relax into an established tradition. He produces great variety in choral effects and some beautifully paced performances. Andrew Lumsden's sparklingly rhythmical organ accompaniment, especially in Rejoice in the Lamb, could not be bettered.'
Britten Choral Edition Vol3
The Organists' Review August 1997

Article in The Singer Magazine on the Britten Choraol Edition Series

'The Finzi Singers have been carving out a niche for themselves as specialists in contemporary British choral music for a decade now, with commissioned works and premieres of music by composers such as Michael Berkeley, Judith Bingham, John Joubert, John Tavener and James Wishart.

So singing music by Benjamin Britten is, oddly, something of a step back in time for the ensemble. But judging from the first in what will be four discs of Britten's choral music, the Finzis are not contenting themselves with a well-worn, 'churchy' approach to the body of this work.

Britten's choral writing comes alive in this new recording from Chandos. Gone is the rather perfunctory, reverential approach of the cathedral choir. Here, Britten's vocal lines sweep you along, often with uncharacteristic abandon. Phrases are beautifully shaped and textures are vibrant and full of colour. Even such familiar works as Hymn to the Virgin, Hymn to St.Cecilia and Rejoice in the Lamb sound fresh, unaffected and wonderfully full of incedent.

The Finzi's Director Paul Spicer explains his approach to Britten's music: "I'm quite instinctive about it. A lot of what I do with interpreting music starts with the words - that's partly why I concentrate almost exclusively on 20th century music. I tend not to go back to manuscripts particularly but to start with the words. I ask myself why a composer started out to set a text in the way he did. Then I think about colour - that's what so much 20th century music is all about, an extraordinary variety of colour.

Seeped in the 20th century idiom as they are, the Finzis have a rich palette from which Spicer can draw his colours. The result is a highly individual but enormously invigorating beginning to a series which should have much excitement in store.'

Ashutosh Khandekar
The Singer Magazine August 1997

'Eighty minutes of musical bliss, thanks to performances of supreme beauty and recording to match the composer's inspiration'.
(Choral Music of Finzi)
Fanfare (USA) 'The Want List'

'…The Finzi Singers, rich and well-blended yet still agile and flexible, give them with an eloquent commitment, tempered only by an awareness of the perils of sentimentality'.
(Sweet Echo)
Hi-fi News

'This disc contains some of the most beautiful choral singing I have heard and two - possibly four - difinitive performances of Warlock's choral songs. Go out and buy it immediately if you haven't already done so. If you don't, you will miss a rare event.'
(Moeran and Warlock)
Peter Warlock Society Newsletter

'This elegant and vastly enjoyable disc.'
(Moeran and Warlock)
The Melbourne Age (Australia)

'The singing is always luminous and fresh, not to mention energetic where necessary. Phrasing and intonation seem to be especially well considered, always with an eye to conveying the text effectively.'
(Moeran and Warlock)
The Melboune Age (Green Guide)

'The Finzi Singers show us what is best about the British. The use of women's voices rather than an apology for those of boys is indeed welcome. Give me this group's energy any day over the distant, effete sound of so many other English groups'.
(Walton Choral Works)
The Melbourne Age (Green Guide)

'The Finzi Singers are as fine an a capella group as I have heard. They have an uncanny sense of pitch and produce great tonal beauty with a real vituoso knack. Need I add that the Chandos recording is well-nigh perfect?'
(Moeran and Warlock)
American Record Guide

'Delights come thick and fast…Waltonians can purchase with confidence'.
(Walton Choral Works)
Hi-Fi News

'This delightful disc, crisp in its performances and recording, will fill a long-felt need for Walton's smaller choral works on one CD. The singing, both solo and choral, of the Finzi Singers has a sense of style and occasion and the right balance between warmth and reserve.'
(Walton choral works)
Soundscapes, Australia

'This one's a charmer. Sir William's choral music is a special treat. Rhythms dance, harmonies sparkle and, even in the more sober works, he can't seem to stay depressed for long. This bouyant joy is brought to life beautifully by the Finzi Singers. The Coronation Te Deum…sounds marvellous here with 20 Finzians, an organ at full throttle, and an adept Chandos engineering team bringing it home for all it's worth.'
(Walton Choral Works)
American Record Guide

'The choir sang as magnificently as ever in works by Tippett, Britten and David Matthews (The Ship of Death)'.

'Both these songs (The Shower and The Fountain) appear on the Finzi Singers' superb CD of Elgar's Partsongs'.
Elgar Partsongs
The Archer (London)

'The substance of Elgar's songwriting is far more striking than is often realised; much of it very fine indeed. The Finzi Singers could scarcely make out a better case. Their ensemble is impeccable, free of the wobbly tendency which occasionally mars their approach. I cannot see these performances being bettered'.
Elgar Partsongs
Church Times

'…they're alert to the shape of Elgar's phrasing, and they capture the crucial flashes of regret with tonal sheen and exquisitely shaded dynamics. Intonation, too, is secure, even when the textures get clotted; and the sound, if slightly overresonant, is otherwise good. In sum, it's about as good as they come'.
Elgar Partsongs
Fanfare, USA

'The performances here are superb. The Finzi Singers' diction is excellent and quintessentially British. They listen and respond to eachother, and I don't believe I ever heard anything less than perfect intonation-and Elgar's music isn't easy, especially when he divides the chorus into eight parts! Paul Spicer allows his singers to use vibrato at appropriate times in the music - something not common with British choral directors. This is accomplished singing of beautiful music'.
Elgar Partsongs
American Record Guide 1994

'Passionate, committed, magnificently sung and directed and supported by strong solo work and Andrew Lumsden's inspired organ playing. Among the finest choral releases of the year.'
Choral Music of Kenneth Leighton
Tower Classical News Nov 1997

'The singing, as elsewhere in the series, is the co-ed Anglican tradition at its best; sensitive phrasing, clear buoyant sound, and a warm, runny legato that seems just the ticket.'
Choral Music of Herbert Howells
American Record Guide 1996

'It receives some wonderfully sustained singing from the choir, the contrapuntal sections performed with much aural imagination.'
Choral Music of Herbert Howells Soundscapes December 1996

'Choir captures drama and tragedy'
Harrogate International Festival concert August 2001

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