Every so often the smaller labels specialising in choral and church music
release elaborate hymn anthologies, and none come better than this, which
gathers seasoned choral singers, professional brass, expertise from a harpist,
John Scott at the organ, and masterminder John Rutter. They chose a London
City church with flattering acoustic, and the rest follows naturally.
There's no wild indulgence in overkill: several of the hymns come
in original clothing, like Gibbons' sublime Drop, drop slow tears
[listen - track 10, 0:00-0:32]. Of the
21 hymns in this collection, the only one I would have preferred to miss
is Amazing Grace, but such a setting delicate with harp decoration
deserves a place considering its mammoth popularity. John Rutter has provided
a good setting of his own words Eternal God to supplement the meagre
supply of hymns that give praise for Music itself.
Of the stirring hymns known to Christian churchgoers internationally,
Luther's Ein' feste Burg stands out, with Rutter creating
unusual atmosphere for the Prince of Darkness verse [listen
- track 3, 2:25-3:37]. Significant plainsong hymns have a place, all
treated with flowing simplicity.
Church musicians no doubt will take note of this, yet its professionalism
gives the performances spirit and polish to ensure churchfolk a useful anthology
of widely-known hymns.
Copyright © 13 September 2000
Basil Ramsey, Eastwood, Essex, UK
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