This has to be the type of CD every working organist dreads. It’s
a compilation of hymns, all played without the relevant words.
The purpose? To help out those churches which want to maintain
a musical tradition but which cannot call upon a competent organist
to play Sunday by Sunday. Proponents of such delights will say
these discs are a wonderful innovation and will help keep a musical
tradition alive. Critics will say they threaten the jobs of organists
as unscrupulous clergy will act to save cash and dispense with
the services of a professional. A dilemma, of course, and one
which cannot be easily solved.
But what of this
disc? It’s certainly innovative and displays the complexities
and possibilities of the famed Aeolian-Skinner organ at the
National Presbyterian Church in Washington DC. William Neil
is an accomplished organist, revered for his solo performances
and also for his work with the Washington-based National Symphony
Orchestra. On this disc, he uses the large organ to maximum
effect, drawing on a wide range of tonal colours. Each hymn
is performed competently, often robustly, and would do considerable
justice to the leading of congregational hymn singing.
The hymns in question
are mainly based around the liturgy of Palm Sunday, Holy Week
and Easter Day, although many hymns will be sung throughout
the Christian year. Of particular note are is Teschner’s powerful
tune sung to the English words All Glory, Laud and Honour.
There’s also an intense accompaniment for the Passion Chorale
– O Sacred Head, Now Wounded.
Quite whether this
is something a lover of church music would purchase is questionable.
Why have the music without the soul-searching words? On the other
hand, these may be hymns you might like to belt out on your own
or with a small group in the privacy of your own home. It could
be the modern-day equivalent of the Victorian parlour song.
Glyn Mon Hughes