Reviews were written by Jeff O'Donnell, Sing For Joy producer and music director.
Hymns of Heaven and Earth
Saint Clement’s Choir / Peter Richard Conte
Dorian Recordings / Dor-90259
I’ve long considered this CD to be one of my “desert island” recordings; one that I’d choose to have if I had to list a top ten from our collection. This recording is notable for its wide variety of selections of both standard hymns and important pieces from the organ and choral repertoire. The performances are top-notch throughout. The fine recording engineering captures a warm and clear sound. Arrangements from Barry Rose and conductor Peter Richard Conte are welcome additions as well. I will admit to having great affection for music and choirs from the British Isles, and, indeed, this recording features composers such as Howells, Harris and Stanford, but it also presents American fare, like a soaring arrangement of “Jerusalem, My Happy Home” set to a traditional tune.
Best Loved Hymns
Choir of King’s College, Cambridge / Stephen Cleobury
EMI Classics / CDC 7243 5 57026 2 3
There is much to be enjoyed on this CD. Another product of the always excellent King’s College Choir, this recording is a “greatest hits” collection of hymns and hymn-based anthems. Of special note is the addition of the Wallace Collection brass ensemble and Sioned Williams on harp. Many arrangements of John Rutter are presented here, and they are tasteful and appropriate. The disc opens with a majestic version of “All my hope on God is Founded” and concludes with an all out blaster version of Ralph Vaughan Williams setting of “All People that on Earth do Dwell.” The choir, organ and brass are recorded in a skillful combination of clarity and sense of space, something not easily accomplished in the King’s College chapel.
Blow Ye The Trumpet In Zion
Choirs of the Parish Church of Saint Luke, Evanston, Ill. / Richard Webster
Call Jonathan Scarozza, 847-475-3630 ext. 30
There are few things, in my opinion, more thrilling than organ, brass and full congregations singing at the tops of their collective lungs. This excellent CD captures these things spectacularly. The real star of the show here is Richard Webster’s artful and elaborate arrangements. The introductions and interludes are expansive, giving the tunes ample time to breathe, be heard and appreciated. The organ at St. Luke’s is something special: an E.M. Skinner that has been lovingly restored to its original condition. The noble sound rolls through the moderately reverberant church, and the strong 32’ stops of the organ will give your speakers quite a work out. There’s not a dud on this disc. Special note must be made of tunes such as Stuttgart, Bryn Calfaria, General Seminary, Bromley, which are not as often recorded. I should also mention that this recording is notable for the clarity of the sung words, something with which we often struggle while selecting recordings for Sing For Joy.
These Our Hymns
The Riverton Singers
An excellent representation of the strong heritage of hymn singing and music making of the Mennonite tradition, this disc features hymns and arrangements of American and English origin. The accompaniments are of very high quality, especially the piano playing of Irmgard Baerg. The recording of “When Peace like a River” of Horatio Spafford and Philip Bliss is definitive. The words are crystal clear. With twenty-four selections this disc is an expansive survey of excellent hymns and theology.