Reviewed by Trevor Kirk
Unless you've been on a different planet for the last 40 years, you'll know that Songs Of Praise is the longest running religious music show on BBC TV. This collection is sub-titled 'Your Favourite Hymns And Music' and amongst those taking part, the St Michael's Singers, the Croydon Seventh Day Adventist Gospel Choir, Jonathan Veira, Daniel O'Donnell, Peter Skellern, the Choristers of St Paul's Cathedral, the London Welsh Male Voice Choir and the BBC Concert Orchestra conducted by Paul Leddington Wright. The breadth of musical styles covered in that cast list shows that this album sets out to be as inclusive as possible, but this selection doesn't score with me for several reasons. Firstly, there's the annoying habit that the producer has of missing out verses (often the best verses) of some of the hymns; "Dear Lord And Father Of Mankind" and "Praise, My Soul, The King Of Heaven" are painfully truncated as a result. If there wasn't enough space on the CD (although at 62 minutes 31 seconds there should have been), then I'm sure something else could've been cut. Secondly, some of the hymn singing is rather passionless, and thirdly, I was totally underwhelmed by Peter Skellern's "Rest In Peace (And Rise In Glory)", a rather trite piece that is typical of the current BBC Religious Department non-controversial thought processes. The idea that all who have lost their lives in the world's conflicts are safe in Heaven is an example of inclusive thinking that is at best fanciful and at worst theologically unsound. However, there are some good things on this album: Jonathan Veira is excellent as usual, the St Michael's Singers make a good fist of Handel's Hallelujah Chorus and the orchestral medleys are well done; but Daniel O'Donnell in his two pieces was off the note most of the time and I've never really rated "Lord Of The Years" as a hymn ever since it was written, the words and music don't seem to fit comfortably together. And what a shame the London Welsh Male Choir didn't get a piece to themselves - they would've shown a bit of hwyl. A disappointment.
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