The Carols Album / Huddersfield Choral Society, Et Al

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Favourite carols in varied and attractive arrangements, well sung and recorded.

There are a few surprises right from the start of this disc. First, an introduction to the carol "Hark the herald angels sing" by an unnamed brass group, second the use of a new (to me) arrangement, and finally the sound of a well trained and well recorded choir but singing with polished Southern vowels. Whilst I regret the loss of some of the individuality which a more characteristically Yorkshire sound used to give this splendid choir, it is by no means a serious defect, and the other surprises I have mentioned are positive gains. The brass group are used sparingly in a small number of carols, but there they do add a distinctive colour of a kind familiar to devotees of Songs of Praise. The new arrangements (again, to me) of many of the carols are generally welcome, especially most of those by the excellent organist, Darius Battiwalla. The contrasting "Little Jesus, sweetly sleep" and "I saw three ships" show him able to grasp the essence of a tune and embellish it without swamping or contradicting that essence. Unfortunately this does not apply in the final item – "Christians awake" – which loses its wonderful rough dignity in gaining a regrettable Broadway Musicals sound.

Many of the other arrangements are by the conductor, Joseph Cullen, who shows a similarly approach and skill to Darius Battiwalla. Older arrangements are by no means completely neglected, and "Gabriel’s message" in Edgar Pettman’s lovely arrangement and Harold Darke’s "In the bleak midwinter" are highlights for me. Less so are John Rutter’s perversion of Adophe Adam’s delightful song or the pleasant but by now hackneyed arrangements by David Willcocks. One surprise is the inclusion of Reginald Spofforth’s Glee, "Hail! smiling morn". Even if it does sound better with single voices to a part, it makes a delightful effect here, and I hope that other choirs may be tempted to include it in carol concerts, even if the words have absolutely nothing to do with Christmas.

The problem of the order in which to perform carols to ensure a good variety of character is solved very well, so that the disc can be enjoyed when listened through as a whole. All in all, if you want a recording of most of your favourite carols (but no "Good King Wenceslas" or "While shepherds") in varied and mainly attractive arrangements, well sung and recorded, this may well be exactly what you are after.

--John Sheppard, MusicWeb International

Product Description:

  • Catalog Number: SIGCD108

  • UPC: 635212010822

  • Label: Signum Classics

  • Composer: Adolphe Adam, Anonymous, Felix Mendelssohn, Franz Xaver Gruber, Harold Edwin Darke, Henry Walford Davies, John Francis Wade, John Wainwright, Joseph Cullen, Lowell Mason, Michael Praetorius, Ralph Vaughan Williams, Richard Storrs Willis, Simon Lindley, Traditional, William James Kirkpatrick, William Matthews

  • Conductor: Joseph Cullen

  • Orchestra/Ensemble: Huddersfield Choral Society

  • Performer: Darius Battiwalla