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American Record Guide, December 2008

Roderick Elms, the noted British pianist, organist, and composer whose arrangements are heard here, isn’t shy about working swooning harmonies and show-bizzy licks into such holiday classics as ‘Angels from the Realms of Glory’, We Three Kings’, ‘O Come, O Come Emmanuel’ and (from another neck of the Christmas woods) ‘Rudolf the Red-Nosed Reindeer’. But not one of them collapses under its own harmonic weight. The timeless melodies are embroidered, but never distorted. And there’s a coherence to the writing that doesn’t force you to dig through layers of stylistic strata to get to the heart of the music.

‘Away in a Manger’ may sport a “lushy-gushy” beginning, but when the choir enters the mood is as reverent as you could want. There are tacky moments (did we really need the drum beat in ‘Angels from the Realms of Glory’?); but nothing in the special effects department calls attention to itself for long. Most affecting are Elms’s take on the ‘Cherry Tree Carol’ and his instrumental arrangements of Bach’s ‘Wachet auf’ and ‘Sheep May Safely Graze’ with a pair of French horns “singing” the melody lines in those celestial chorales. The other orchestral interludes are happy and bright.

David Denton
David's Review Corner, November 2007

Having for twenty years taken the annual chore of selecting music for the Christmas Carol Concert in one of the UK’s largest concert halls, I soon discovered the lamentable lack of suitable ‘symphonic’ material. I would have welcomed these highly attractive original works and carol settings from the multi-talented British musician, Roderick Elms, his carols dressed in trendy orchestral colours. The short brassy Fanfare da Festa gives the disc its lift-off and from therein it is pure pleasure, the Joyful Company of Singers mixing sophistication with the vigour many of the carols require. I hope Bach and other composers not credited in the heading will not be offended, as Elms is the main ingredient, even turning Sleepers Awake into a jazzy little number. I particularly enjoy his large-scale and red-blooded Wassail Down the Wind, three festive drinking songs scored for organ and orchestra, and among his other original works Festive Frolic just strays into ‘crossover’ music. Stephen Bell, well-known in this field of music, directs a highly responsive Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, and the sound quality is very good. Something a little different for Christmas.

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