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Corridors Of Light: Music Of William Ferris

Ferris / Composer Festival Orchestra / Vorrasi
Release Date: 09/28/2010 
Label:  Cedille Records   Catalog #: 7004   Spars Code: DDD 
Composer:  William Ferris
Performer:  John VorrasiKathleen MeredithPatricia SpencerPhilip Skeris,   ... 
Conductor:  William FerrisAlan HeatheringtonArnie Roth
Orchestra/Ensemble:  William Ferris ChoraleComposer Festival OrchestraChicago String Ensemble,   ... 
Number of Discs: 1 
Recorded in: Stereo 
In Stock: Usually ships in 24 hours.  

Notes and Editorial Reviews

FERRIS Gloria 1. Et È subito Sera. 2 Bristol Hills. 3 Corridors of Light 4 1,4 William Ferris, cond; 1,4 William Ferris Chorale; 1,4 Composer Fest O; 2 John Vorassi (tn); Read more class="SUPER12">2 Chicago Str Ens; 3 Arnie Roth, cond; 3 London S Str; 4 John Shirley-Quirk (bar); 4 Sara Watkins (ob) CEDILLE CDR 7004 (71:40)

This lovely disc is devoted to a composer—William Ferris (1937–2002)—who never received the recognition he deserved outside of the specialized circles of church and organ music. A native of Chicago and a student of, among others, Alexander Tcherepnin and Leo Sowerby, Ferris was a brilliant organist and choral conductor who, through his leadership of the William Ferris Chorale, created a body of glorious vocal works, of which three of the most significant receive their premiere recordings on this CD sponsored by the Cedille Foundation, which is dedicated to promoting composers from the Chicago school.

Although Ferris produced a quantity of secular works, including a tempestuous organ concerto ( Acclamations) , premiered by himself with the Chicago Symphony, as well as a ravishing symphonic movement October-November , his reputation is highest in the field of liturgical music. And this relatively late example of the Gloria (1992) is a superb embodiment of the continuation of the lyrico-dramatic manner exemplified by his most influential mentor, Leo Sowerby. Its idiom is characterized by long expansive vocal lines supported by a richly modulating harmonic foundation combined with an exceptionally fluid and plangent tone.

The much earlier solo cantata— Et È subito Sera (And Suddenly It Is Evening)—based on the enigmatic poetry of Nobel Prize-winner Salvatore Quasimodo—shows Ferris gradually working his way toward a subtle and expressive setting of some rather difficult texts. Of the four works recorded here, however, it leaves a somewhat more nebulous and tentative impression.

Then follows Bristol Hills (1969), the only purely instrumental work here, a short but telling evocation of a specific locale in New York State’s Finger Lakes region with an almost visionary intensity.

This visionary intensity is especially evident in the capstone of the program—the 1994 setting of Stephen Spender’s great hymn to the spiritual heroes of our civilization, Corridors of Light. The most striking element in this score is the presence, in addition to the baritone soloist and chorus accompanied by a very effectively deployed ensemble of piano, percussion and strings, of a solo oboe commenting on the text in a series of lengthy instrumental interludes. This live performance featuring legendary baritone John Shirley-Quirk and the noted oboist Sara Watkins, all under the direction of the composer, attains and sustains a level of exalted eloquence and celebration that underlies and encapsulates all the outstanding qualities of Ferris’s music.

Ferris spent his later years as an organist in Rochester, and in a way this was especially fitting because his style combines the traits of Sowerby with the Eastman school of Hanson and Bernard Rogers, with a bit of Randall Thompson. These readings must be considered definitive as Ferris was personally involved in two of them as conductor (Gloria and Corridors), while his lifelong friend and partner John Vorassi is soloist in the Quasimodo cantata. Only Bristol Hills was recorded outside of Chicago (in London), but this too is appropriate as anyone who enjoys the English vocal-choral tradition of Delius, Vaughan Williams, and Walton will find these works immediately and deeply engaging, and should not miss this very moving release.

FANFARE: Paul A. Snook
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Works on This Recording

Gloria by William Ferris
Performer:  John Vorrasi (Tenor), Kathleen Meredith (Alto), Patricia Spencer (Soprano),
Philip Skeris (Bass)
Conductor:  William Ferris
Orchestra/Ensemble:  William Ferris Chorale,  Composer Festival Orchestra
Period: 20th Century 
Written: USA 
Ed È Subito Sera by William Ferris
Performer:  John Vorrasi (Tenor)
Conductor:  Alan Heatherington
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Chicago String Ensemble
Period: 20th Century 
Written: USA 
Bristol Hills by William Ferris
Conductor:  Arnie Roth
Orchestra/Ensemble:  London Symphony Strings,
Corridors of Light by William Ferris
Performer:  Sara Watkins (Oboe), John Shirley-Quirk (Baritone)
Conductor:  William Ferris
Orchestra/Ensemble:  William Ferris Chorale,  Composer Festival Orchestra
Period: 20th Century 
Written: USA 

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