This 23rd volume completes the ambitious project of recording the entire contents of The New English Hymnal (1986), the official hymnal of the Church of England. Priory Records, an English label that focuses on church music, uses a different British parish choir for each volume, and here the featured ensemble is the Choir of St. Chad's (Roman Catholic) Cathedral, Birmingham, led by David Saint, with organist Nigel Morris. Scanning the contents of the earlier volumes doesn't reveal any discernible pattern in the ways the hymns were selected for each release, but this final installment is primarily devoted to alternative tunes to the more familiar settings of the texts. Very few of the tunes are likely to be familiar to any but the most ardent hymnophile, with a few exceptions like "Jesu, Lover of my soul" (Parry's Abersystwith), "The King of love my shepherd is" (J.B. Dyke's Dominus regit me), and "When morning gilds the skies" (Joseph Barnby's Laudes Domini). The hymns are presumably sung complete, since some have as many as eight verses. Saint varies them by changing accompaniments, having some verses unaccompanied or unison, and sometimes adding descants. The singing is of the caliber of a very fine mixed parish choir and is entirely pleasing. The acoustic can be boomy when the organ is playing at full volume, making the words hard to understand, but most verses are balanced enough to let the words be heard. The CD should be satisfying to any hymn lover interested in more obscure Anglican repertoire.
AllMusic Review by Stephen Eddins