To complement our annual list of the year's best albums in popular music, Christianity Today also offers a selection of notable sacred music recordings, primarily in the choral and classical genres.
We again asked Jane Holstein, an editor with Hope Publishing Company and an arranger, choral clinician, organist, worship planner, and concert artist, to compile this list of fine albums.
This easy-listening presentation of 15 choral anthems begins ginning with a festive setting by Richard Nichols based on "All Creatures of Our God and King." There's a splendid melody from Gustav Holst's symphonic work "Jupiter" (from The Planets) that was later adapted into hymn form by Ralph Vaughan Williams [sung in Britain to "I Vow to Thee, My Country"]. Here, the tune is set to a 1982 text by another British writer, Michael Perry, for which the CD is named: "O God beyond all praising, we worship you today." Dan Forrest shows his adept ability to take this majestic hymn and arrange and orchestrate it with the grandeur due. In contrast, he sets the Isaac Watts text "When I Survey the Wondrous Cross" in a compelling Celtic ballad, complete with the sweet, melodious sound of uilleann pipes (Irish bagpipes), featuring the traditional English melody, "O Waly Waly." An original anthem by Molly Ijames, "A Triune Prayer," provides a meditative reflection based on a poignant intercession to the Trinity with poetic text by Chris Anderson. Mary McDonald sets Samuel Wesley's words "O for a thousand tongues to sing" in the dynamic, original work, "His Glorious Praise in Song." Overall, it's a solid listening experience of church anthems, with each selection tastefully orchestrated and performed with dignity.