Two Anticipated Recordings

There are two recordings that will be released in the next few months or so that I’m really looking forward to.  First is Beyond All Mortal Dreams by Trinity College, Cambridge, directed by Stephen Layton.  Second is a so-far unnamed album by the Phoenix Chorale of Ola Gjeilo‘s music.

Trinity College at Cambridge is known for all their wonderful performance.  I first had the opportunity to see them while they were preparing and performing for an Evensong service in their chapel.  It was a remarkable performance and included Arvo Pärt’s “Nunc dimmitis,” which was incredibly powerful.  They also sang a piece called “O vis aeternitatis,” by American composer, Frank Ferko.  I’d never heard of him nor the piece but was amazed at the moving aesthetic of it.

Since then, Stephen Layton has decided to record an entire album of American a cappella works including this piece by Ferko.  In addition, it has works by Stephen Paulus, William Hawley, Healey Willan, and curiously Ola Gjeilo.  Some of the finest works of each of these composers will be represented if fine form.  I’ve listened to some of the samples Hyperion Records posted on their their website and I’m very excited to hear the rest.  It sounds very promising.  This is a promising step for some English musicians who aren’t familiar with American choral music.

The Second recording also features the music of Norwegian-born composer Ola Gjeilo.  He’s made quite the splash on the choral scene with some very defining qualities, and a distinctive sound.  It’s difficult to define exactly what his music sounds like, but it’s his.  Anyway, he’s now the composer-in-residence for the Phoenix Chorale, conducted by Charles Bruffy, and has written a number of pieces for them.  Bruffy, in turn, decided to have the Chorale make a recording dedicated specifically to his music.  This just finished the recording sessions yesterday (Monday) and already I can’t wait to start listening to it.  It should be out this coming Fall or around then.

Here’s a video about the Phoenix Chorale recording Ola Gjeilo:

Anyway, here’s to waiting . . .

Recently Purchased: Cantiones Sacre 1575

Back in 1575, Thomas Tallis along with his friend and former pupil William Byrd collaborated on a project to celebrate the 17th year of reign for Elizabeth I.  Both were Gentlemen of the Chapel Royale, who were required not only to sing at the Queen’s church services, but also to compose music for the service.  Elizabeth had also given Tallis and Byrd the generous privilege of owning the monopoly of music printing in all of England.

To express how grateful they were for Her Majesty’s generosity, Tallis and Byrd decided to work together on a “thank you”/17th Anniversary gift.  This gift became a collection of pieces called Caniones Sacre or Sacred Songs.  This collaboration involved both composers writing 17 pieces each of sacred Catholic texts.  The final piece, “Miserere Nostri” by Tallis features a 17th note motive in various treatements.  While it wasn’t the commercial success they thought it was going to be, it became a hugely influential collection of works and one of the finest examples of compositions from this entire era of English music.

I was intrigued by this recording as it claims to be the first recording of the entire Cantiones Sacre in it’s entirety and original publication order.  Alamire, directed by David Skinner, has taken upon themselves a staggering challenge to record dozens of such collections in the next decade.  My main fear associated with this recording was this: “if they’re trying to get through so much music, wont the project turn out unpolished and rough?  Is this about just getting the material out there in any form?”

After my first listen, all fears melted away.  This is a top-notch ensemble with a great deal experience and sensitivity to phrasing, intonation and unity.  Most everything is recorded with one singer per part.  David Skinner knows exactly what he wants in each piece and has been able to communicate that to the singers.  Each line feels like it has a purpose and direction.  Each part is conscious of itself as well as the parts around it.  It’s a beautiful recording and definitely a must buy for anyone looking for some recordings of the English Renaissance (another great example is of the Tallis Scholars performing Byrd’s Three Masses.)

Here’s a recording of “In Ieiunio Et Fletu” by Tallis.  It’s what Skinner calls “a freak show,” with basses being asked to leap down to low Ds.  Well done Alamire and David Skinner.  I look forward to your future projects.

“In jejunio et fletu orabant sacerdotes:
Parce, Domine, parce populo tuo, et ne des hereditatem tuam in perditionem.
Inter vestibulum et altare plorabant sacerdotes, dicentes: Parce populo tuo.”

“In fasting and weeping the priests prayed:
Spare, O Lord, spare thy people, and give not thine inheritance to perdition.
Between the porch and the altar the priests wept, saying: Spare thy people.”

Back from Colorado

Two weeks driving around Colorado has come to an end.  BYU Singers’ tour was a great success.  We performed a concert almost every night and still gave performance even during those times when we didn’t have an official concert.  It was a great deal of fun, but I’m glad to be back sleeping in my own bed.

Our tour basically looked like this.  Up and down the 25 with a few stops beyond.  There were a lot of things to learn and situations to adapt to, and all in all it was a great experience.  A few moments on tour that were highlights for me:

  • Meeting Tim Tharldson, the composer of the piece, “Rest” that I conducted.
  • Visiting the Denver Temple.
  • Performing at CSU in the beautiful Griffin Concert Hall
  • Hearing the CSU Chamber Singers perform “Mid-Winter Songs” by Morten Lauridsen completely memorized.
  • Visiting the Air Force Academy’s Cadet Chapel
  • Performing in The Sacred Heart Church in Alamosa
  • Performing at St. Elizabeth of Hungary Church in Denver.
  • Seeing former members of BYU Singers.

I’m glad to have been a part of this wonderful voyage.  We had a number of people talk to us about how much our performing changed their lives and how they’ll never be the same.  Of course, we’re not the ones to take credit for this effect, we’re just so glad to be able to help people become better.  For more information and detailed descriptions please visit our tour blog updated faithfully by Sandefur Schmit (BYU Singers’ alumni queen and photographer).

BYU Singers in Griffen Concert Hall at Colorado State University in Fort Collins.