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Carol Praise Carol Praise
Music Edition with CD-Rom

David Peacock and Noel Tredinnick (Editors)
ISBN 9780007228164 (0007228163)
HarperCollins, 2006
£20

Category: Worship & Liturgy

Everyone loves a Carol Service, and hopefully this year, thanks to this book, we'll see some with a difference — not necessarily by departing from the established "Carols and Nine Lessons" or "Carols by Candlelight" patterns but by bringing in a few of the more contemporary and less well known Christmas songs it introduces.

But we're talking about more than just carol services: these are songs and hymns for the entire period from Advent through Christmas to Epiphany, making the book suitable for planning worship from late November to early January.

As well as all the old favourites — O come all ye faithful; Hark! The Herald angels sing; God rest you merry gentlemen, to name but a few — there are new translations of European and other international carols, new words written to old tunes, old words reworked for modern singers and fresh arrangements of the established tunes, complete with guitar chords for modern worship groups.

For me personally, one of the most powerful of the reworded carols is Martin E. Leckebusch's version of "O little town of Bethlehem", No. 158 — just the first two verses here should be enough to convey the impact:

O West Bank town of Bethlehem
how still your victims lie;
the grieving weep,
deprived of sleep;
militia men roam by;
for through your dark streets raging
the never ending fight;
such hopes and fears,
such bitter tears
are met in you tonight.

O morning news, O papers,
report the dreadful dearth
of saints who sing
to praise the King,
of peace across the earth;
where Christ was born of Mary
'midst wondering angels' love,
in anguish deep, sad mortals keep
few thoughts of things above.

The book follows the modern trend of arranging contents alphabetically by first line rather than grouping the songs thematically, but this is mitigated by comprehensive indexing, of the Christmas story (thematic and chronological), of Bible references and of first lines and titles.

All of this is combined with a resource-packed CD-Rom which includes the words for all the songs (html and rtf) ready for printing customised carol sheets (most of the songs and music are covered under the terms of the CCLI Church Copyright / Music Reproduction licensing arrangements), for OHP slides or for projection, extra instrumental arrangements (pdf) and audio files (mp3) for selected carols, and Bible readings from several translations (including the Dramatised Good News Bible) ready for use in services, along with even more indexes (such as authors, adaptors, composers and arrangers; carols based on folk tunes; new carols set to well known tunes; and carols suitable for use with children).

At a time of year when church attendance soars, this volume presents a superb opportunity to breathe new life into old services which church leaders can ill afford to ignore. The book alone is excellent value: with the CD-Rom, it's worth every penny and more.

Phil Groom, November 2006

Phil Groom is this site's Webmaster and Reviews Editor. He's a freelance blogger, writer and web developer who spent ten years managing the bookshop at London School of Theology alongside eight years writing web reviews for Christian Marketplace magazine before he came to his senses and went independent. You can find him on facebook or follow him on twitter @notbovvered.

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