When you listen to 200-300 new recordings of choral music every year, 90 percent of them sacred programs, you figure you’ve heard enough of these things to know what to expect from a given composer, choir, conductor, and record label. And then, something like this surprising new release by a choir you’ve never heard of comes along–The University Singers from the University of St. Thomas, Houston, Texas–and you are amazed anew, and for the next hour engulfed in an unexpectedly pleasing, moving experience.
Don’t be concerned about the tinkling bells that open the program–this kind of bell sound on recordings loses its charm after about 12 seconds–and that’s exactly how long it takes forRead more the chorus to enter, then the organ, and from there you’re treated to a superbly programmed, expertly sung concert highlighted by many works that will not be well known but that deserve attention from church and concert choirs everywhere. Among these are two pieces centered on the same text: a prayer of St. Richard of Chichester, by Antony Baldwin (b. 1957) and Richard Allain (b. 1965); a Magnificat and Nunc dimittis by Philip Moore (b. 1943); David Ashley White’s Lord, for thy tender mercy’s sake; and the brief yet captivating Easter Carillon by W. Leonard Beck, with its infectious organ accompaniment and festive choral exclamations.
O sacrum convivium by Robert Parker (b. 1960) and Ave Maria by Colin Mawby (b. 1936) lend a decidedly “French” character to two familiar texts, while Mawby’s God be in my head is solidly, reverentially “English cathedral”-inspired; Donald Pearson’s A Song to the Lamb is Vaughan Williams-ish sparkling and joyous. Several organ pieces are interspersed throughout the program–and all are welcome and engaging, effectively highlighting the world-class Schoenstein & Co. instrument installed at the St. Basil Chapel (an extraordinary space designed by famed architect Philip Johnson)–played with impressive imagination and skill by Yuri McCoy (I was especially moved by Raymond H. Haan’s Voluntary on “Let us break bread together”). There are also some works by the more familiar names Palestrina, Saint-Saëns, and Dupré, and these are excellent–but I would strongly recommend this for all those other pieces by those lesser-known composers–and for the outstanding choral singing throughout. I would go out of my way to hear this choir, whatever they were singing. If you’re a fan of choral music and of superior singing, do not miss this.
Sacred Choral Music at it's finestMay 7, 2017By L. Majors (Bartlesville, OK)See All My Reviews"The 10/10 rating given to this recording of a choral performance by the University Singers of St. Thomas college is well deserved. The singing is beautiful and the organ accompaniment deeply sonorous. The sound is incredibly well-balanced and the clarity of the singing is outstanding. If you enjoy sacred choral music, this is not a recording to be missed."Report Abuse
Beautifully Sung, Beautifully RecordedApril 19, 2017By Jonathan S. (Anchorage, AK)See All My Reviews"So often with choral recordings I find myself either caught up in the libretto or wondering what it was that I actually heard that the experience of the music suffers from the distraction. Here the sonic quality of the performance and its recording are perfectly balanced with the hall acoustics, rendering the album uniquely listenable without any strain on the part of the hearer. What resulted was a truly remarkable experience, as the words and music swept me away I did not acknowledge the passage I time as I sat entranced and understood exactly what the music was conveying. This is one recording where I can say that the only improvement in the hearing woudld have been to be present when it was made. Simply Outstanding"Report Abuse
Selections beautifully doneApril 18, 2017By Kathy R. (Zachary, LA)See All My Reviews"The selections on this CD are performed beautifully. And the compositions are well written. It is most relaxing and inspiring listening to this recording!"Report Abuse