Subject: I have found a CD that I think you would enjoy
Genres: Special Interest, Pop, Classical
Strange But Good Christmas Recording
Jude L. d'Aquin | Ridley Park, PA United States | 12/17/2003
(4 out of 5 stars)
"This recording has a history to it. I don't know when it was recorded, but it is a re-release of an old LP. Not that that's a bad thing. And actually, it's a very good thing. Come, let me 'splain:I have an unusual interest in Christmas music which goes back to my childhood; and I'm always searching for good CD recordings of both well-known carols and especially of the myriad of lesser-known or downright obscure carols, many of which are so melodious and easily learnable that one wonders why they are not as well-known today as "Silent Night" and "Jingle Bells". At least two such carols are contained on this recording.The text of the carol/hymn "Angels from the Realms of Glory" was written by James Montgomery from Scotland and first published in 1816. It was soon paired up with a melody (the more common one, which the Anglican hymnal officially calls "Regent Square"), which was composed by Englishman Henry Smart and published in 1867. This text-and-melody combination comprises the popular version of this carol as it is generally known in the English-speaking world. Less often, versions of the carol appear which combine an ill-fitted (and therefore annoying) pairing of Montgomery's text with the French melody "Angels We Have Heard on High".The version of "Angels from the Realms of Glory" heard on the Abbey Choir's recording is none of these, however. Montgomery's words are sung to an obscure French melody which is even more beautiful, IMHO, than Smart's. While Smart's melody is "rousing," this melodious French tune is perhaps more "heart-rending". My father bought me the original LP of this recording in 1968 or 1969, and in all the ensuing years I have never come across another recording of the carol using this melody.The album also has both the best arrangement (choir & violins) and the best performance of "Christians, Awake!" which I have ever heard. As with "Angels from the Realms of Glory" (which also features choir and violin), this track is at the same time both rousingly inspirational and yet "tender" enough to make your eyes well up with tears. The above is also true for Schubert's "Ave Maria" which was originally included on the LP, but -- sadly -- excluded from the album's CD incarnation. (Maybe someone decided that that would have been too Catholic???) A shame, really, because that one also used to make my eyes water.Another carol is also included which uses another French melody virtually unknown in the English-speaking world: "The Holly and the Ivy". Unlike the sprightly English melody, the more obscure French melody uses a minor key and is rather "dark," though still melodious. And here's where the "strange" part comes in ... There's something mysterious surrounding the origins of this recording. First, the CD seems to make no mention of it being a remastering or re-release of an album which has been around since at least the 1960s (and maybe before?). Secondly, and more strangely: A few of the tracks (maybe only "Angels from the Realms of Glory" and "Christians, Awake!") feature voices which sound absolutely British, rather like the King's Singers or the Cambridge Choir. There's violin accompaniment, the singing is refined, the R's are all trilled, the accent is English, and the voices are in four parts. Nearly all of the rest of the album's tracks, however, (including "The Holly and the Ivy") features voices (in unison) which sound like elderly African-Americans -- (possibly a Baptist church choir?).This album is a bit of an oddity, but a good one to have, if only for three or four of the tracks. I'm glad that it's finally available on CD, so that I can include the tracks in question in my Christmas CD dubbings/burnings. Hopefully any future re-releases will include the missing "Ave Maria"."