Despite its traditional-sounding title, O Holy Night was one of the more innovative releases of the 2019 holiday season. The youthful new London Choral Sinfonia and its director, Michael Waldron, announce their intention to create a new kind of Christmas program, with five familiar carols, in mostly time-honored arrangements, serving as a kind of framework, with the interstitial spaces filled in by contemporary works of various kinds. The contemporary pieces don't really link to the traditional ones, and for CD listeners figuring out what's going on is made more difficult by the brutal combination of white text on a beige background in the graphics. The result is that the shifts between familiar carols and challenging contemporary idioms may seem abrupt. The upside is that the individual performances are full-throated and strong, and the album brings together a good deal of bracing modern Christmas music that might not be easily found in other contexts, like John Ireland's O Holy Boy and Thomas Wilson's nifty neo-medieval There is no rose. The traditional carols, too, receive rousing performances, delivered in full color by Orchid Classics, working at St. Matthew's Church, Baywater, London. A holiday album for those who like a bit more substance.
AllMusic Review by James Manheim