Saturday, December 22, 2007

My latest Christmas album

When visiting friends last weekend, our (English) host showed me a Christmas CD of which he knew I'd approve. And I did. So I bought it from Amazon. It seems to be out of print, so I bought it used, and it arrived Friday.

A major attraction was that it contained performances by two leading English cathedral choirs, from Wells and Salisbury. The recordings were made in 1978 and 1987, respectively, although the latter says it was a benefit concert (for cathedral restoration) "in the presence of the H.R.H The Prince of Wales." Apparently HRH has made restoring Salisbury Cathedral a personal priority.

Whether through the original scheduling or the culling of duplicates, most of the traditional carols are on the Wells part of the CD, but I did very much like the Salisbury rendition of “In the Bleak Winter.” The texture of several of the Wells carols (notably “Once in Royal David’s City” and “Coventry Carol”) show how a choir can vary and build emotional intensity on a simple carol in a way that congregation singing cannot.

I have 29 Christmas albums on my MP3 player. Most recordings of Christmas carols seem to be schmaltzy commercial versions by secular musicians, so it’s nice to hear the traditional songs of Christian worship interpreted by (Anglican) church choirs.

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