Though Love be a Day
Antioch Chamber Singers, conducted by Joshua Copeland
Acis Records CD
A couple caveats about this CD’s sound: it is awash in too much reverb and sports a tubby-sounding piano. But one gets past this quite readily because of two simple counterweights: the material and performances.
Matthew Brown’s polymodal and cluster chord infused choral music is truly lovely. The program here is inhabited by gentle, unassuming, and supple pieces. Brown isn’t interested in crafting works that push at, or even approach, any stylistic boundaries. However, he certainly knows how to write for the voice. The Antioch Chamber Singers, led by Joshua Copeland, display considerable timbral sweetness and purity of intonation, and a lack of fear for the works’ sometimes demanding tessitura.
Another small quibble: one wishes that “True Colors,” a Cyndi Lauper cover arranged by Brown, had been omitted; it is a competent arrangement, but jars with the rest of the composer’s music on the disc.
Trinity Wall Street Choir, conducted by Andrew Megill; Alarm Will Sound; Tarab Cello Ensemble
Composer, violinist, and member of several NYC new music ensembles (Alarm Will Sound, ACME, etc.), Caleb Burhans is one of the best musicians in the thirty-something generation of post-classical New Yorkers. On his first composer portrait CD, Evensong, His work reaches back to Anglican choral music and sideways to embrace ambient post-rock and post-minimalism. That’s a lot of posts in one paragraph; one doesn’t mean to tarnish Burhans with any notion of stylistic dilution. But he is a composer who is comfortable exploring a mutable musical language that brings together seeming stylistic opposites in uneasy alliances. On Evensong, he also explores the uneasy relationship between faith and doubt, made all the more poignant by his musical background.
For more than two decades, Burhans has performed as a vocalist in church choirs. Like many a “recovering” church musician, he struggles with doubt, even agnosticism; sometimes seeing behind the curtain of liturgical ritual can help to engender this. Thus, Evensong is in part comprised of his diaphanously lovely choral music, including Magnificat and Nunc dimittis settings sung with aching sumptuousness by the choir of Trinity Wall Street Church, conducted by my estimable colleague at Westminster Choir College, Andrew Megill. Surrounding the choral pieces are works for Alarm Will Sound and the Tarab Cello Ensemble that use the aforementioned vernacular idioms to help to outline the “doubt” portion of the program.
Whether he is allowing the ostinatos to chug, the stalactite chordal verticals to clangorously chime, or arcing lines of vocal polyphony to float across the soundscape, Burhans has formidable chops and considerable taste in deploying and managing musical resources. Like Lou Harrison did before him, he helps to reclaim the word “pretty” from its desultory status in some contemporary classical circles. I don’t think Burhans could write an ugly piece if he tried, and I’m smitten with the beautiful works he’s already created. Evensong – recommended.
– Christian Carey
This week, NYC’s Upper West Side boasts two concerts featuring piano music by intriguing and engaging 20/21 composers.
Tonight (Thursday) at 7:30 PM, Ursula Oppens and Robert Levin are having a CD release party for their new Bridge recording of Bernard Rands’ piano works. The composer will be on hand to discuss his music.
On Sunday, December 8th (also at 7:30 PM), Aleck Karis celebrates the release of his own Bridge CD, Wolpe, Feldman & Webern, performing music by all three composers at Merkin Concert Hall.
Rave Tapes is out 1/20/2014
Lyricist, musician, poet, and now … DJ Stephen John Kalinich is part of the new Transcendental Music Network. Congrats Stevie.
Transcendental Music Network Launch.
Debut EP out now via Weird World/Domino