Every holiday season brings with it a new batch of Christmas discs, and in 2008 it brought this Hyperion disc called A Christmas Caroll from Westminster Abbey with James O'Donnell directing the Choir of Westminster Abbey. It contains some familiar songs in unfamiliar arrangements like Christopher Bowers-Broadbent's take "Silent Night," Robert Pearsall's re-working of "In dulci jubilo" and James O'Donnell's own vision of "I Saw Three Ships." For the most part, however, the repertoire here is taken from modern and contemporary composers with Poulenc's Quatre motets pout le temps de Noël, Walton's "All This Time," Rutter's "Dormi, Jesu," and William Mathias' "Ave Rex." But despite the disparity of the selections in style and content, the performances are consistently appealing. The boys and men of the Westminster Choir sing with a warmly round tone and a smoothly polished ensemble and O'Donnell is a masterful leader who shapes the performances into sweetly attractive aesthetic wholes. While fans of old-fashioned choral Christmas discs may find that this one has a tad too much contemporary music for their taste, anyone looking for a new Christmas disc of modern and contemporary choral Christmas music will at least have to try this one. Hyperion's digital sound is deep and clear, with a strong feeling of place and time, though the manifest emptiness of the hall is perhaps less than ideally suited for the sound of the season.
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AllMusic Review by James Leonard
|Quatre motets pour le temps de Noël, for chorus, FP 152|
|Ave Rex, a carol sequence for chorus & organ (or orchestra), Op 45|