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Abide with Me: A Photographic Journey through Great British Hymns
Author: John H. Parker 
Publisher: New Leaf Press
An English professor at a university CCM types know as Nash Vegas has an interest in pre-20th century Great British hymnody. He makes a working vacation out of it, bringing a photographer from Belfast (another university prof'essor) to capture the native surroundings of the ladies and gentlemen responsible for composing some of the greatest songs of Christian devotion in their shared language.

The resultant labor of love, Abide With Me, makes for a colorful coffee table book, humble in size for such a time, but generous with compact insight into the lives of hymnodists whose work has endured, even through the last  40 years' onslaught of praise & worship Jesus jingles.

Twenty writers receive brief biographical essays by John H. Parker incorporating the circumstances surrounding the writing of of one of their compositions. Paul Seawright's accompanying pictures complement the text with shots of countrysides, cityscapes, churches, gardens, gravesites, harbors, waterways, mansions, humbler houses, and other points of interest throughout the British Isles. The combination of storytelling and site seeing makes for a page-turner that may inspire one to search out more information at least some of the personalities profiled. That those personalities come from backgrounds varied as animal husbandry, clergy, maritime commerce and  the social circles of the prosperous evidences the breadth of experiences the Lord can use to inspire the faithful to sing His praises.

One can hear those same praises on the compact disc that comes with the book. Ray Walker of the gospel group that sang background for Elvis Presley and numerous other acts throughout their 62 year career, the Jordanaires, has produced an album of all the songs described in the book featuring his solo vocals and those of his quartet alongside a bevy of choirs, vocal ensembles and Matthe Hearn, another professor from Parker's academic home, Lipscombe University. It makes for mostly acapella goodness of high order and a plessant reminder of what raising one's singing voice to the Almighty needn't be accompanied by the debased  poppy folk rock that makes for so much contemporary worship.

Even if modern p&w does touch your praising heart, one could spend $20 or so far worse than on this gorgeous package that tells of Godly folks responsible for hearty songcraft aimed at divine ends and lets you hear some textually rich examples of it. Anyone interested in the history of the Church's musical history would do well to at least peruse Abide With Me.

Jamie Lee Rake 


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