Notes and Editorial Reviews
Now here's a disc that really does fit the category of non-traditional Christmas programs--and rather than just a novelty that produces a few smiles before it's returned to the shelf for a long winter's nap, this joyful, heartfelt, entertaining concert will make you dance, and likely will be returned frequently to your CD player throughout the holiday season. An Indigo Christmas is described as "a concert of Christmas music with a distinct Afrocentric vibe"--and indeed it vibrates and soothes and touches the soul with its unique selection of carol and spiritual arrangements, sung with all requisite spirit by the Ontario-based Nathaniel Dett Chorale, joined here by several guest soloists, including pianist Joe Sealy and singer
The concert begins (the recording was made from two live performances at a Toronto church) with an African-drum intro, followed by two African songs and a lively Trinidadian carol arranged by Stephen Hatfield, The Virgin Mary had a Baby Boy. Choir soprano soloist Melissa Davis shines in the spirituals Rockin' for the World and Roland Carter's setting of Mary had a baby--but certainly my favorite has to be Moses Hogan's exquisite version of This Little Light of Mine, an arrangement that not only strongly declares the singer's intentions but conveys the deep conviction and emotion that motivates them. Originally written for the St. Olaf Choir (you can hear its rendition on the choir's own label, in a compilation titled the Sixth World Symposium on Choral Music, this piece is one of Hogan's most inspired and enduring creations.
Perhaps most provocative is the chorale's transcription of Handel's "Oh thou that tellest good tidings to Zion" from Messiah. This "contemporary treatment"--as in jazzy and harmonically adventurous--is adapted from the group Take Six's arrangement that appeared several years ago on an album called Handel's Messiah--a Soulful Celebration. And no one will argue that Handel ever has sounded more "soulful" or "celebratory"! There's much more here, including a finale that features Canadian blues/gospel/soul singer Jackie Richardson really raising the roof (along with the rest of the choir and instrumentalists) in an uninhibited version of Joy to the world. My only complaint (besides the occasional eruption of applause) is that the sound is too close, probably due to less-than-ideal conditions of the church venue, but nevertheless it brings too much focus to some voices and skews the ensemble balances. Lowering the volume a touch helps. Ultimately, however, this music is about celebration and sharing of joy--and for that, you can't be any more in the middle of the action than you are for this one happy hour.
--David Vernier, ClassicsToday.com Read less
Works on This Recording
Silent Night by Franz Xaver Gruber
Nathaniel Dett Chorale
Written: 1818; Austria
Joy to the World by Lowell Mason
Nathaniel Dett Chorale
Written: 19th Century; USA
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