Well, here we are; Easter is almost upon us. Another big moment in the Christian year, and so another album of reworked hymns from the musical outfit Page CXVI.
For the last year or so the band’s been engaged in an ambitious project creating three records representing various seasons in the traditional church year. After ‘Advent to Christmas’ and ‘Lent to Maundy Thursday’, this week saw the release of the final album in the project, ‘Good Friday to Easter’.
As I’ve said before, Page CXVI’s aim is “to make hymns accessible and known again” and this they do beautifully. This time they’ve particularly chosen hymns, some well-known, others not, that reflect the wonders of Jesus’ cross and resurrection.
I’ve often felt it’s a little bit odd when Good Friday is remembered in a way that seems to pretend Easter Sunday is still unknown, as if we’re in the same position as those first disciples, left in gloom and uncertainty. Page CXVI manage to steer clear of this, unashamedly singing both of what the events of that first ‘Good Friday’ tell us about what Jesus went through, and what he achieved for us by going through it. Thus, the first two tracks, ‘O Sacred Head Now Wounded’ and ‘Go to Dark Gethsemane’ dwell on Jesus’ crucifixion, sombre and quiet, yet still joyfully marvelling at Jesus’ going to his sin-bearing death in place of his people. There’s then an interlude track, appropriately titled ‘Three’, before we burst into the joy of resurrection.
For me the stand-out track is ‘Roll Away the Stone’, which as far as I can tell is entirely their own creation. Lead vocalist Latifah Philip’s distinct and ever-dreamy voice, combined with the repeated ‘Alleluia’ response, make for an incredibly catchy gentle song of upbeat resurrection triumph. Other favourites are ‘Christ is Risen’, reworking Archer T. Gurney’s nineteenth-century hymn, as well as the quirky folksy version of Wesley’s ‘Christ the Lord is Risen Today’.
The record then ends strongly: a reworking of ‘How Deep the Father’s Love for Us’, with a breath of fresh air poured into the familiarity of Stuart Townend’s emotive lyrics as Philips lingers on them just long enough to make them fresh, before she declares “Your wounds have paid, they have paved the way”. This is then followed by ‘Hallulujah’, taking sections from Handel’s famous Messiah chorus and crafting a simple but powerful closer meditating on the wonder of the risen Christ now reigning forever.
A great end to a project that is set to be a great gift to the church.
Why not have a listen below:
Page CXVI have also made the chords from the three records available for free on their website too. If you subscribe to their mailing list through their website, they’ll also send you sixteen tracks from their back-catalogue for free. Full disclosure:
The artist sent me a copy of this album for free, but I hope this is still a fair and honest review!