Hark! - Traditional carols in a new light
King’s Lynn Festival Chorus, Mardi Brass/Tom Appleton
rec. 15-16 January 2011, St. Nicholas’ Chapel, King’s Lynn
Detailed Track-Listing at end of review
I’m a real fan of brass bands and the idea of one accompanying carols filled me with optimistic anticipation. Sadly this disc is very disappointing indeed. These turn out to be generally trite and anaemic versions of traditional favourites. I’m all for having new arrangements of the Christmas warhorses but this disc seems to undervalue the quality of the originals and makes most of the carols too samey. 

The disc gets off to a bad start with the first three carols. My favourite Once in Royal David’s City seems to lose the whole power of this lovely Christmas hymn. Ding Dong! Merrily on High sees the speeds change at times and lacks any real “joie de vivre”.Silent Night is certainly an improvement and is well performed. The ensembles seem to be awry in Joy to the World and things hardly improve for O Little town of Bethlehem. Then matters deteriorate seriously with God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen, which is all over the place. The arrangement is very repetitive; I’ve never felt this carol outstay its welcome before. I’m sure there may be some who enjoy this style; unfortunately it’s not for me.
In the Bleak Midwinter has some nice touches and there’s a good balance between the choir and the brass although I felt it drag somewhat towards the end. Away in a Manger fails on any emotional level and is followed by Angels from the Realms of Glory where the chorus is slowed almost to a dirge. The spirit of this hymn seems to have dissolved. The very familiar is followed by two carols that were new to me. These are the only two mentioned in the booklet which has no texts or sources. I did warm to Hush-a-Bye by Brian Woolf, which is a charming carol; rather less so to See Christmas All Around Us Shine.The First Noel lasts eight minutes and felt longer in this oh-so-slow rendition.The disc ends with a tolerable O Come all ye Faithful except that I would have liked more delight, especially in the last verse “O Lord we greet thee”. 

This disc fails in its objective of presenting arrangements of traditional carols that convey their strength, beauty and joy. The recording quality is perfectly acceptable. Regrettably not a disc I will be returning to over the Festive season. 

Bland arrangements of old favourites, which in the main make for a hard listen. Not one for the stocking!  

David R Dunsmore

Bland arrangements of Old Favourites, which in the main make for a hard listen - not one for the stocking!
Detailed Track-Listing 
Hark! the Herald Angels Sing (arr. Maxwell) [3:36]
Ding Dong! Merrily on High (arr. Woolf) [2:15]
Once in Royal David’s City (arr. Woolf/Maxwell) [4:38]
Silent Night (arr. Woolf)[4:22]
Joy to the World (arr. Maxwell)[2:45]
O Little town of Bethlehem (arr. Maxwell) [3:24]
God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen (arr. Woolf)[4:42]
In the Bleak Midwinter (arr. Woolf)[5:41]
Away in a Manger (arr. Woolf) [2:27]
Angels from the Realms of Glory (arr. Woolf) [5:04]
Hush-a-Bye Brian G A Woolf (arr. A Woolf) [3:14]
See Christmas All Around Us Shine Ed Maxwell [2:49]
The First Noel (arr. Woolf) [8:01]
O Come all ye Faithful (arr. Woolf) [6:57] 

2012 Christmas CD reviews