Thursday, January 06, 2005

Review: Carols From King’s DVD

Yes, I know the Christmas season is ending, even for us Anglicans. But I just got this DVD. And there’s been a request for guidance on Anglican music. So on to the DVD, Carols From King’s.

What can one say? -- this is the Choir of King’s College Cambridge performing their renowned Christmas offering, Nine Lessons and Carols.

But avid listeners to the Christmas Eve radio broadcast of Nine Lessons and Carols may be disappointed on a few counts. Much of the 2000 service on the DVD comes across more like a performance made for BBC television (which I think it is) than as a service. As such, it at times lacks the emotion of the live radio broadcast.

Poems and such are often read, replacing some of the traditional scripture readings. I find that a travesty. And, unlike the radio broadcast, we aren’t treated to a boy chorister reading the first scripture lesson. Not having a very British, very earnest boyish reading of the first scripture lesson takes away an important part of the Nine Lessons experience. You might as well have Kid Rock sing the first verse of Once in Royal David’s City.

The camera work is often mechanical focusing on the same choristers over and over again, while neglecting others.

And it ends badly with the ending organ voluntary truncated.

The music is still wonderful, of course, with excellent sound, rising above the aforementioned shortcomings. Those with good surround sound especially rave about the sound quality. My speakers and surround sound are both a bit dated, but I was still impressed myself.

And, a nice touch, the chapel slowly darkens during the performance as it does on Christmas Eve.

A special historic treat on the DVD is the first ever television recording of the Nine Lessons service from 1954. Of course, the sound and picture are not up to 21st Century standards. But this recording retains much of the gravity, emotion, and realness of the service that today’s television productions can squeeze out. The historic nature of this recording alone makes this DVD worthwhile.

The conversation between the last three directors of the King’s College Choir is also of interest to any fan of the choir.

Although the 2000 production should stick more closely to the wonderful traditional Christmas Eve service, this is still an excellent DVD. I played it for hours and hours as soon as I got it.

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