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Hymns from Oxford - Amazing Grace
Amazing Grace [4’31]
Jerusalem [2’48]
Let us with a Gladsome Mind [2’30]
Rock of Ages, Cleft for me [2’47]
Onward Christian Soldiers [5’02]
When I Survey the Wondrous Cross [5’02]
The Day of Resurrection [2’18]
Morning has Broken [3’13]
Now Thank we all our God [2’44]
Nearer, my God, to Thee [4’42]
Holy, Holy, Holy! [3’17]
Glory be to Jesus [2’49]
Crown Him with Many Crowns [3’01]
Jesu, Lover of my Soul [3’49]
All Glory, Laud and Honour [5’46]
Lead us, Heavenly Father, Lead us [1’59]
O Jesus, I have Promised [3’22]
Nkosi Sikelel’ iAfrica [3’13]
Choir of Christ Church Cathedral, Oxford/Stephen Darlington
Clive Driskill-Smith, organ
Rec: Christ Church Cathedral, Oxford, July 2004
GRIFFIN GCCD 4047 [63’00]

 

This disc contains 18 hymns in a range of styles with an emphasis upon the traditional. There are a number of arrangements by Stephen Darlington, Ralph Allwood and Howard Goodall, amongst others. In general terms, the choir of Christ Church Cathedral achieve a wide degree of variety for instance through solos, verses for boys only or men, re-harmonisations and descants. The Rieger organ is well handled by the Sub-Organist, Clive Driskill-Smith, who uses upperwork sparingly and concentrates on the less harsh foundation tone. The blend with the voices is therefore more satisfactory. There is a good sense of line and phrasing, and the modulations from hymn to hymn have been carefully considered. A CD of entirely hymns is a difficult formula, so listening in small sections is likely to be much more satisfying.

There are many highlights. Nothing is overstated or outlandish, and the singing has a very pleasing polished and bright sound. Amazing Grace opens with a discreet organ accompaniment, solos and an unusual calmness. Let us with a Gladsome Mind exemplifies the well-blended and, when required, gutsy tone especially from the men. The phrasing of the organ part (breaking with the voices at the end of each phrase) is a matter of personal taste, although sometimes I would have wished for a continuity in the organ sound whilst the voices breathed. Tempi are generally quite stately which does aid very clear dictation. The trebles have the ability to vary their articulation which also contributes to the success of this recording. When I Survey the Wondrous Cross is in a very pleasant arrangement by Goodall, with organ introduction and interludes, an a cappella verse with new harmonies and a strong last verse in unison. His setting of Morning has Broken is also fresh, in D flat major (unusually) and with rhythmic variations in the melody. The Allwood arrangements are also successful, with strong descants (for example Nun Danket) and a fanfare for Holy, Holy, Holy! The disc ends with a modern setting, Nkosi Sikelel’ iAfrica, arranged by Goodall.

The booklet accompanying the recording is comprehensive containing programme notes, full texts for all of the hymns, and notes about the performers. Highly recommended.

Graham Mark Scott



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