Encouraged by former Spice Girls boss and nearby resident Paul Conroy to enter the Britain's Best Parish Choir competition they went on to win, and regulars in Midsomer Murders, the hit ITV drama filmed in their Oxfordshire market hometown, Wallingford Parish Church Choir can already claim several brushes with fame. Produced by Rupert Christie and directed by former GP turned musical director Sue Ledge, their Decca-issued debut, The Hymns Album, extends their unlikely 15 minutes, with a collection of the nation's best-loved songs of praise (as voted for by Classic FM listeners). Unsurprisingly, several of the pieces featured at the recent Royal Wedding appear here, including the suitably regal entrance music, "I Was Glad," and congregational hymn "Love Divine, All Loves Excelling," while there are also choral renditions of patriotic songs such as Last Night of the Proms favorite "Jerusalem" and stirring anthem "Guide Me O Great Thou Redeemer," several numbers associated with British sport including traditional F.A. Cup Final singalong "Abide with Me" and "I Vow to Thee My Country," the latter best known as the inspiration for Rugby World Cup theme "World in Union," and familiar Sunday school standards such as "Make Me a Channel of Your Peace" and "All Things Bright and Beautiful." Backed by the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, the slow-burning symphonics of "How Great Thou Art" and the rousing "He Who Would Valiant Be" make the most use out of their illustrious accompaniment, but there are also several tracks that allow the 52-strong group (with ages ranging from six to 70) to sing their hearts out against the more minimal backdrop of a sole church organ, such as "Dear Lord and Father of Mankind" and "Praise My Soul." There's little here to elevate it from being anything other than a glorified Sunday morning church service, but it's difficult not to be swept up by the choir's abundance of enthusiasm.
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AllMusic Review by Jon O'Brien