A Goodwill find. I had no idea who Scottish tenor Father Sydney MacEwan was, but I figured this was worth a 99 cents gamble, especially with the cool cover. Turns out MacEwan (1909-1991) had a fabulous voice, with a strong John McCormack quality. He's not quite on John's level, but how many humans are or were? He's close enough. The performances are flawless and lovely and relaxing, and we get a superb alternate melody for O Little Town of Bethlehem--not the one we've heard 5,000 times, which I have nothing against, except we've heard it 5,000 times. And Sydney takes What Child Is This? at a fast clip, which is a refreshing change and which does the tune (Greensleeves) right, in my opinion. And we're treated to some carols we don't (or I don't, anyway) hear all the time, if at all, and that's too bad, since they're splendid: the Polish carol Midst Quiet Night, the Basque carol The Infant King, and Helen Taylor and Michael Head's modern (1928) carol The Three Mummers. The last title had me a bit verklempt. What can I say?
The LP ends with a joyous and playful The Twelve Days of Christmas. Buster and I were just talking about a choral director with airs about him, to put it nicely. Like many, I'm sure, I've dealt with marginally gifted people who thought the world should cut a path around them, so it can make for a surreal contrast when we encounter a great talent whose sole goal is do justice to whatever material he or she has chosen to share with us. Their humble devotion can be downright humbling. The other types of "artists" live in a fan club of one, and they should be happy they have that many. Oh, and in case I forget, the fabulous choral backing on these tracks is by the George Mitchell Choir.
Sound quality is extraordinary.
Yeah, it was worth the 99 cents....
Click here to hear: Christmas Carols by Father Sydney MacEwan
Adeste Fideles (In Latin)
God Rest You Merry, Gentlemen
O Little Town of Bethlehem
What Child Is This?
Midst Quiet Night
The Infant King
The First Nowell
Good King Wenceslas
The Three Mummers
The Twelve Days of Christmas
Christmas Carols by Father Sydney MacEwan (Columbia CL 924; 1956)