Most of our great cathedral choirs record regularly, offering a useful snapshot of the quality of the voices at any given time – always variable when young singers are arriving and leaving quite rapidly. The girls of St Albans Abbey are aged eight to 14, drawn – as are the boy choristers – from local schools, not a dedicated choir school. These fresh young voices, joined by the impressive lay clerks, make the purest sound in this Mendelssohn collection, though intonation is not always secure. Favourites Hear my Prayer and How Lovely are the Messengers join less well-known motets and a set of canticles. You can find better recordings of most of these pieces, but that's not the point: this is a working choir, playing a distinguished part in the daily round of a great building.
Mendelssohn: Choral Music – review
St Albans Abbey Girls Choir, Lay Clerks of St Albans Cathedral Choir, Peter Holder (organ), Tom Winpenny
Stephen Pritchard has written on classical music for most of his 45 years in journalism. He was the Observer's first readers' editor, and prior to that was a managing editor and production editor