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Erik Simmons: How Great our Joy! Organ music for Christmas by Carson Cooman

review cooman organ music x1 cong

This is not a Christmas album. This is Christmas music played on a church organ, a different thing altogether. If you want a bland album of festive music, this is not for you. If you already like the organ then, as Carson Cooman undoubtedly says in his day-job as composer-in-residence at the Memorial Church, Harvard University: “Fill your boots”.

This is an album of works for Christmas, many of them arrangements and fantasias on well-loved hymns and carols, and some new dedicated compositions, all played by Erik Simmons.

The works were composed over 15 years, either for commissions or as gifts for friends and colleagues. Many of the carols are familiar across the world, just not in all countries at the same time — this means that while it is a Christmas album, it can be played any time, as what’s popular elsewhere is new to English ears so there’s a lot that could pass as non-festive.

Each piece is dedicated to someone: Three Pastorales on a German Carol is dedicated to Andreas Willscher (whose own album we reviewed not so long ago).

Even where the songs are familiar, you’d be hard-pressed to spot them immediately. The opener is Fantasia On Greensleeves and the old tune is hard to disguise, though it disappears in places, while Little Fantasia On In Dulci Jubilo is nothing like the cheery Mike Oldfield ditty. Other well-known (to us) tunes include Fantasy on Adeste Fideles (“O come, all ye faithful”).

The sleeve notes have more detail about the organ — St Peter Und Paul, Görlitz, Germany — than you can shake a stick at.

This is out on Divine Art, DDA 25196.


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