BY SIMON CALDWELL
SOME OF BRITAIN'S best-loved hymns have been recorded in modem musical styles by a pair of Birmingham musicians and sent on an iPod to the Pope.
Benedict XVI is either going to love the collection or perhaps become the first Pontiff in history to throw an iPod nano into a litter bin or give one away to charity.
The device may even end up hidden away in a Vatican vault alongside the electric guitar given to Pope John Paul It by the Blues singer BB King.
The intention, however, is to soften the Pope's attitude to modem church music.
The gift is from contemporary Catholic songwriters Boyce & Stanley and it features a new album of classic hymns reworked in modem forms of music. The duo has used instruments such as pianos, saxophones, guitars, drums and synthesisers to re-create centuries-old works in laidback gospel, folk, funk, soul and lounge-music styles.
The album, Age to Age, has been downloaded on to an iPod and sent to the Pontiff in the hope of gaining a "papal seal of approval".
The move is something of a gamble given that the 80-yearold Pope is an aficionado of classical music who has publicly criticised rock 'n' roll, once allegedly describing heavy metal as "the work of the devil".
In 1996, as Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger. he also said that rock music was not very uplifting for the soul and certainly did not belong in church.
The artists, however, see the new album as a chance to demonstrate to Pope Benedict just how good modem church music can be.
Mike Stanley, one Ordie pair, said: "We wanted Pope Benedict to hear how some of the more traditional songs can be interpreted in a contemporary way without doing an injustice to the truth they contain."
Joanne Boyce, the other member of the duo, said: "There is much talk in Church circles at the moment about the inappropriateness of contemporary instruments like drums and guitars in favour of the more traditional sounds of organ and choir.
"However, our experience over the last II years suggests it need not be an either/or situation but rather both/and what really matters is the standard of musicianship and the ageless truth it seeks to express," she said.
The album, which will be released tomorrow, features "Soul of Saviour" and "Make Me A Channel" re-created as soul ballads. "How Great Thou Art" is reproduced as arousing folk duet. along with "Be Not Afraid". It also includes a Caribbean calypso disco version of "Sweet Heart of Jesus".
The album comes at a time when the Vatican is reforming the liturgy of the Catholic Church along more traditional lines with the Pope insisting last year that "an authentic updating of sacred music cannot occur except in line with the great tradition of the past".
The complete digital collection of Boyce & Stanley recordings on iPod nano have also been sent to Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O'Connor, the Archbishop of Westminster, who, like Pope Benedict, is a classical pianist.
They have also gone to Archbishop Vincent Nichols of Birmingham. one prelate who will be delighted to receive them, having previ ously described the work of the pair as a "wonderful bridging of generations of musical appreciation and involvement which does so much to support the life of prayer and the devotional life of Catholic faith".
Pope Benedict is already the proud owner of an iPod after a group of Vatican Radio employees last year gave him a sleek, white device loaded with Vatican Radio programming and classical music.
Samples of the Age to Age album can be heard on http://www.cjrnmusic.co.u.k/ag etoage/