by the Cambridge Singers, directed by John Rutter. Collegium Records COLCD 126, distributed by Hinshaw Music Publishers. $16.95.
SATB Octavos: The Cambridge Singers Festival Hymn Series. Hinshaw HMC1732; HMC1790-1803; HMC1831. $1.25.
Congregational booklet for ten hymns in the series that call for congregational participation. Hinshaw HMB222. $5.95.
Here is the inspiration you need to breathe new life into classic hymns. Listen to the thrilling CD of Rutter’s arrangements of twenty-one hymns scored for various resources (choir, congregation, brass, harp, strings, percussion), and then use the published octavos to replicate them in worship, along with the congregational booklet for the ten hymns in the series that call for congregational participation.
Pros: This is Rutter at his finest, using music and texts we love to sing: “Amazing Grace,” “Christ the Lord Is Risen Today,” and “Glory to Thee My God This Night,” just to name a few. The arrangements are useful and easy to follow, and there’s a booklet for the congregation, full conductor’s score, choir octavo, and separate instrumentalist parts ready to go—and that glorious CD so you can hear the final product. The music is a far cry from “an anthem in a minute” but everything looks worth the effort. It is a sure way to rekindle the congregation’s love for the great hymns of the church.
Cons: Those of us who work with less than a cathedral-sized music budget tend to get discouraged when anthems call for a string orchestra, harp, full brass choir, and percussion. That said, you could present most of the hymn arrangements in this collection more simply (for instance, use a piano to play the harp part).
Bottom line: At least purchase the CD to rekindle your enthusiasm for the power of hymnody and to get your creative juices flowing for how to offer hymns in new and creative ways.