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Sing Ye Heavens - Hymns for All Time

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It's good to have the clean-vowelled, fresh-voiced Cambridge Singers back in action with composer John Rutter, who demonstrates once again his considerable talents as a choral director. Here, he also had his work cut out arranging 15 of the tracks (and composing one other). Divided up into various categories, such as "the Eucharist" and "folk hymns," this album will delight the confirmed hymn enthusiast, provided that he or she doesn't insist on the pure, as-written product. Rutter's reworkings range from the bold and brassy (occasionally deliciously over the top--what would Martin Luther have thought of the naughtiness in "A mighty fortress is our God"?) to those of harp-accompanied simplicity, not least in the charming lines of "Be thou my vision." Several tasteful descants are models of their kind. There are some surprises at which to chuckle. For example, not the expected brass and organ job on "We plough the fields and scatter," but a dainty, tripping harp accompaniment to the familiar melody, such as Haydn might have wedded to a Scottish folksong. Occasional numbers might be too saccharine for some tastes, but there are cunningly placed samples of Gregorian chant, Tallis, and Gibbons to provide contrast and cleanse the palate. --Andrew Green

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