Books, March 2017

BENEATH A TRAVELLING STAR: 45 contemporary hymns and carols for Christmas
Timothy Dudley-Smith
RSCM: P/B 978-0-85402-262-5 £9.95
It is 15 years since Beneath a travelling star first appeared as a collection of 30 of the Christmas hymns that Timothy Dudley-Smith wrote, one each year, for his family Christmas card. For this new edition there are indeed 15 more, bringing the total to 45. William Llewellyn has inherited what was Lionel Dakers’s music editorial role, expanding the choice of tunes and often with one new or at least unfamiliar tune and one well-known one. In practice this is likely to give choirs the opportunity to sing the texts with the new tunes, and congregations to sing new words with tunes they already know.
The theology underpinning each text is securely based in scripture, expressed with elegance and poetic sensitivity, but using language and concepts that will communicate readily to that diverse mixture of churched and unchurched still attracted by carol services. Many of these hymns extend the nativity story to include reference to passion and resurrection, often referring to the infant Jesus as ‘Saviour’ or ‘Redeemer’ and explaining why. There is a rich variety of metre and rhyme scheme, and even one that is an acrostic with the initial letters of each line spelling out ‘Jesus Christ is born today’. This is a collection that will add variety and depth when used to enrich worship at Christmas.

Nancy Litten
Alfred Music: P/B 978-0-7390-9683-3 £8.95
A book targeted at piano accompanists is not an obvious candidate for CMQ review, but this new volume could be so useful for anyone who accompanies church choirs in rehearsal, whether as a separate accompanist or as a choir director. Many will find particularly useful the common harmonic progressions used in warm-up exercises with hints on how to practise them to achieve fluency. There are plenty of exercises given, all with piano accompaniment. As well as getting a good sound, there are exercises on intonation, diction and agility. Sight-singing is covered and suggestions given for physical relaxation and warm-up exercises. Everything is organized in a logical order with clear explanations. Anyone who plays for or directs choral rehearsals at whatever level would benefit from reading this book and applying what they find relevant – they will enjoy their rehearsals more, as will their choirs!
Julian Elloway