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Stained Glass Christmas With Heavenly Carols (HD DVD)

Concert Hot Spot // Unrated // November 14, 2006 // Region 0
List Price: $29.98 [Buy now and save at Amazon]

Review by Daniel Hirshleifer | posted December 8, 2006 | E-mail the Author
A Stained Glass Christmas With Heavenly Carols must be the most self-descriptive title I've ever seen. It perfectly encapsulates the experience that awaits you inside the disc. That is, images of stained glass windows set to Christmas carols, or, if you prefer, selections from Handel's "Messiah." That's it. Nothing else to see here. Move along. I probably didn't even need to watch the disc for this review, but since I care so much, I did.

Stained Glass Christmas follows in the footsteps of Concert Hot Spot's A View From Space With Heavenly Music in that there seems to be absolutely no point to the content of the disc. Yes, stained glass windows are pretty, and no, I don't want to hear Christmas carols again, but even if I did, surely there must be more entertaining ways to present them than the way shown here. As Adam Tyner mentioned in his View From Space review, a sense of context would be good. The same holds true here. Clearly these shots were done in different churches, so perhaps we could have gotten some historical information on the church in question. Sometimes we do see the rafters of the building and it makes you wonder what else there is to see, but no, it's right back to the windows.

The carols are performed tastefully, without bombast or pomp. Handel's "Messiah" gets similar treatment, although, of course, the more rousing portions heat up. That being said, none of the material is especially interesting, since it's all been done to death and the windows get monotonous after about ten minutes.

For those curious, the carols included are:
"Joy To The World"
"Silent Night"
"The First Noel"
"Hark! The Herald Angels Sing"
"O Come, All Ye Faithful"
"Away In A Manger"
"Jesu Joy of Man's Desiring"
"Sans Day Carol"
"Mary Had A Baby"
"Bring A Torch Jenette & Isabella"
"O Holy Night"
"I Saw Three Ships"
"Unto Us Is Born A Son"
"Good King Wencelas"
"Nativity Carol"
"Ave Maria"
"In Dulci Jubilo (Christ Was Born For This)"
"O Come, O Come Emmanuel"
"Oh Little Town Of Bethlehem"
"It Came Upon A Midnight Clear"
"Here We Come A Caroling"
"Greensleeves (What Child Is This?)"
"God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen"
"Angels We Have Heard On High"

If you found that as boring to read as I did to write, then you can get some idea of how intolerable it is to slog through this disc. And now, for those who were not deterred by the above list of hackneyed melodies, here are the selection from Handel's "Messiah" available on the disc:
"Hallelujah!"
"Overture"
"Comfort Ye"
"Every Valley"
"And The Glory Of The Lord"
"Thus Saith The Lord Of Hosts"
"But Who May Abide"
"Behold! A Virgin Shall Conceive"
"O Thou Tellest Good Tidings To Zion"
"He Shall Feed His Flock"
"I Know That My Redeemer Liveth"
"For Unto Us A Child Is Born"
"And Suddenly There Was With The Angel A Multitude"
"Glory To God"
"Rejoice Greatly, O Daughter Of Zion"
"His Yoke Is Easy"
"Behold! The Lamb Of God"
"All We, Like Sheep"
"Hallelujah!" (No, not a typo, they list it twice)
"The Trumpet Shall Sound"
"Amen"

All of which tells me Handel must have been no fun at parties. People would come up and say, "Handel, write us a merry tune with a catchy middle section!" and he'd go away and come back with "And Suddenly There Was With The Angel A Multitude" and everyone would get really uncomfortable and shuffle in their seats and someone would cough and finally the host would say, "Well, folks, great having you here. Sorry Handel ruined it with his sourpuss religious leanings. Next time we won't invite him."

Anyway, the selections from "Messiah" don't have different visuals. It's the same images you get with the Christmas carols, so don't be fooled into thinking that you're getting more for your money. Believe me, you're not.

The HD DVD:

The Image:
Stained Glass Christmas With Heavenly Carols, like the other Concert Hot Spot releases, has been encoded in MPEG-2. And there's nothing wrong with the transfer, per se, except for the fact that for the entire running length of the picture the camera is shooting directly into a light source. Thus, the colors are completely blown out, and everything looks like it's gone radioactive. However, to the transfer's credit, I didn't detect too much break-up of the image or artifacting. At the same time, all you're seeing is stained glass window after stained glass window, and it all looks like a lot of the same.

The Audio:
As I mentioned before, the performances on the disc are really rather subdued, but since the main focus is the music, they at least got it sounding good, with a lot of space and good surround use. Concert Hot Spot really needs to start using Dolby True HD so we can get an even more sumptuous sound, but I only say that because the audio quality of what is here is so good, I can only imagine it would be that much better lossless.

The Supplements:
Not a one.

The Conclusion:
A Stained Glass Christmas With Heavenly Carols would make a great background video for a church get together. Also, for Handel fans, you can get some good performances of his work in 5.1. Other than that, this one isn't even worth thinking about. Skip It.

Daniel Hirshleifer is the High Definition Editor for DVD Talk.

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