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The test of time

DAVID THOMPSON listens to
volume six of Priory's
New English Hymnal


Priory    PRCD 706

The Complete New English Hymnal - Volume Six. (p) 2001 Priory Records Ltd

 

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'.

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Copyright © 23 February 2002 David Thompson, Eastwood, Essex, UK

 

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Record Box is Music & Vision's regular Saturday series of shorter CD reviews