Carus Verlag's The Herald Angels Sing features the Junges Vokalensemble Hannover in a program of contemporary Christmas carols. It's a real mixed bag, but it isn't exclusively limited to pieces that Carus publishes and the clear intent of the disc to provide some access to newer kinds of Christmas settings. Firstly, it ought to be mentioned that the recording -- made at the Kirche Stephansstift in Hannover -- is a bit muddy, distant, and lacks punch. However, as the album is mainly of unaccompanied choral music, that's not so bad except in instances where an instrument is used, such as the drum in Javier Busto's Hodie Christus natus est.
The program includes several interesting things; especially noteworthy is Jan Sandström's postmodern take on Michael Praetorius' early seventeenth-century carol Est ist ein' Ros entsprungen, with a group of soloists slowly singing the main tune over an ethereal cloud of cluster chords in the chorus. More traditionally fashioned carol settings, such as Trond Kverno's Corpus Christi Carol -- with its ancient-sounding alternatim between a boy soloist and choral parts -- and Romualds Jermaks' soothing and restrained Der Weg nach Bethlehem seem to fare a bit better than pieces attempting to be hip and commercial sounding, such as Andrea Figallo's Christmas Lullaby. While on Carus Verlag's The Herald Angels Sing the sum of certain parts does outweigh the program as a whole, this disc may well prove useful to choruses looking for new material to add to their Christmas programs; those deep into Christmas literature may find something in it. As a regular item to add to one's collection of holiday favorites, this is not quite a mainstream choice.