The test of time
DAVID THOMPSON listens to
volume six of Priory's
New English Hymnal
Priory PRCD 706
Is there, I wonder, somewhere out there, a corpus of several thousand
people who are eager to avail themselves of the entire contents of a Hymn
Book for repeated listening? My arithmetic tells me that, on the evidence
of the present Volume Six, (with twenty-seven hymns), the project will occupy
at least twenty discs (assuming that alternative tunes are omitted). The
powers-that-be at Priory evidently have enough faith to think the enterprise
viable, and have invested it with their customary meticulous care and thoughtful
programming. I wish them well.
Given the choice of Hymnals for such an undertaking, Priory have, in
opting for the New English Hymnal, selected what is probably the finest.
A few years ago, I mourned the passing of its predecessor. The English Hymnal
was always a rich resource of verse and fine music. The revision, considerably
slimmed down, leaves us bereft of some irreplaceable treasures, (Vaughan-Williams'
sturdy and spine-tingling tune for 'Hail thee, Festival Day', for example),
but the sterling sense of quality control prevails in the newer book, in
the retention of many fine ancient hymns and tunes, well-loved traditional
classics, and a prudent choice of more recent hymns which look likely to
stand the test of time. There is very little dross here, and a high standard
of musical arrangement is retained, which cannot be said of many other collections.
Priory have conceived the project with vision and imagination, allotting
to each of a variety of Church and Cathedral choirs a varied and satisfying
programme. Thus each disc can stand alone as a showcase for Anglican choirs
and hymn-singing -- an idealised 'Songs of Praise'.
Copyright © 23 February 2002
David Thompson, Eastwood, Essex, UK
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