Various Artists

Massed Choirs & Organs

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AllMusic Review by Blair Sanderson

However riveting this Autumn Harmony Concert may have been in live performance -- with multiple organs and the voices of 23 men's choruses ringing in the rafters -- the results are less than captivating on CD. Even with the bombastic and hokey music taken in stride, there is nevertheless a provincial mediocrity to this disc that makes it almost unlistenable. Nigel Ogden's organ playing is on the level of a good theater organist's capabilities, flashy but far from impressive. About a third of the program is devoted to his kitschy renditions of show tunes and pop classics, played on digital and pipe organs that have both concert and theater registrations. While the festive occasion may have warranted frivolous entertainment, there is little music here to engage serious listening. But the most dreadful moments come in the choral tracks, most of which repel through the density of the massed voices. With over 400 singers belting out Broadway selections and sacred favorites, the results are predictably heavy and plodding. The gravest affront, though, comes in the grotesque versions of the Beatles' "Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da" and "Penny Lane," which, perversely, must be heard for their utter awfulness. This concert was digitally recorded in 1998, yet the sound is murky enough to resemble a bad tape recording.

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