Monday, 16 June 2014

Personal Addition - Choral CD Review

This is a CD Review project for Choir. I thought I'd share it on my blog as a personal addition, seeing as music is a big part of my life.

Choir: Prairie Voices

Album: Awakenings

The music on this album is performed in English, Spanish, Creole, Estonian and an unnamed African language.


1. The Sweetheart of the Sun - Eric William Barnum (Click for link to performance. From here you can also stream or buy the rest of the album.)
2. Hold Me, Rock Me - Brian Tate
3. Awakening I - Puerta Del Ser - Sid Robinovitch
4. Awakening II - Giran Las Días - Sid Robinovitch
5. Awakening III - Todo Está Quieto - Sid Robinovitch
6. Kalinda - Sydney Guillaume
7. Meestelaulud I - Meeste Laul - Veljo Tormis
8. Meestelaulud VIII - Tantuslaul - Veljo Tormis
9. Job, Job - arr. Stephen Hatfield
10. Voice Dance - Greg Jasperse
11. Kasar Mie La Gaji - Alberto Grau
12. Battle of Jericho - arr. Moses Hogan
13. Four Shakespeare Songs I - Come Away Death - Jaako Mäntyjärvi
14. Four Shakespeare Songs II - Lullaby - Jaako Mäntyjärvi
15. Four Shakespeare Songs III - Double, Double, Toil and Trouble - Jaako Mäntyjärvi
16. Four Shakespeare Songs IV - Full Fathom Five - Jaako Mäntyjärvi
17. He'll Make A Way - Byron J. Smith

I'll comment on a few of the tracks below.

#1. Sweetheart of the Sun has become by far my favourite track here. As a composition it's just beautiful, and here Prairie Voices does an amazing job with the dynamics, growing through longer held notes, and, when necessary, staying at the same dynamic and letting the chord be enjoyed as it is. The words "black" and "poppies" in particular are stressed very effectively and appropriately.

#2. Hold Me, Rock Me was also performed really nicely. It starts off with a beautiful unison melody in the sopranos, which, in this recording, is near perfectly blended and sung. All the entrances and motion during the verses are heard very clearly here under the melody. We sang this piece this year in Choir!

#3. Awakening I - Puerta Del Ser (Door of the Being) was very nice. I love that no matter what Prairie Voices always sings with good tone and tuning. I felt that at the beginning and at a few spots later in the song that one of the Sopranos tended to stick out of the sound and was also a little flat.

#4. Awakening II - Giran Las Días (The Days Spin/Turn) was fantastic. I loved the piece and the choir had really great energy when they sang it. Their sound was powerful, but it never was shouty and their tuning held up nicely because of that. The men did a great job of stressing the word "errantes" in particular during their soli section. I wanted to hear a little more from the women and altos during their soli; they weren't quite strong enough for me.

#5. Awakening III - Todo Está Quieto (Everything is Still) was performed very sensitively; the choir did a fantastic job of making sure the soloist was heard over them. The soloist was very effective when she waited for a while on longer notes to switch from straight tone to vibrato. She didn't ever try to be very loud and flashy, and the result was beautiful.

The arranger of "Job, Job", Stephen Hatfield, also arranged "Jabula Jesu", which we also sang this year in Choir.

Favourite song: Sweetheart of the Sun. I love the close harmonies and dissonances in this piece, especially during the second half. The two climax sections of this piece are just perfect to me — both are so emotional, with thick harmonies, the second featuring a soaring melody in the sopranos.

Least favourite song:  I am not really a fan of Kasar Mie La Gaji. Alberto Grau seems to be just messing around a little with this piece. Maybe he wanted it to be different, but it didn't suit my taste I found the falls at the end of each phrase at first to be unique and maybe an interesting thing to do for the beginning of the piece, but by the second minute they annoyed me. There are too many short phrases and too few long ideas, all delivered using the same four words. Some of chords were nice, but they fell off and died very quickly. All in all, I like some of the ideas in this piece, but feel that the composer just took it in the wrong direction.

I would definitely listen to this Choir again and recommend them to anyone looking for some quality choral music to enjoy.

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