FLAC (tracks) 24-bit/96 kHz | Front Cover & Digital Booklet | Time - 83:50 minutes | 1,18 GB
Classical, Choral | Label: New Focus Recordings, Official Digital Download
Throughout its history, the Philadelphia based contemporary chamber choir The Crossing, led by conductor Donald Nally, has championed works that address social, political, and environmental issues. So it is consistent with the group’s history and mission that their latest release, Carols After a Plague, takes a broad view of our collective experience of the recent pandemic era, inviting twelve composers to look inward and engage with some of myriad ways in which the last few years have forced all of us to confront difficult realities and gain strength from solidarity with one another. The result is a moving tribute to the resilience of communities and a clarion call to renew our collective commitment to justice.
Interwoven throughout the twelve newly commissioned choral works are a prelude and twelve interludes composed by conductor Donald Nally that create a ritualistic scaffolding for the larger works. Soulful trumpet lamentations, haunting marimba rolls, brilliant splashes of vibraphone color, evocative mandolin melodies, and tolling bells, among other textures, establishe an anchor for the contrasting sound scapes of the other repertoire, unifying the collection into one larger album length work.
Shara Nova’s three movement title work provides a second layer of interwoven material, in the beginning, middle, and end of the album. Carols After a Plague enters into a space of healing surrounding the racial reckoning that was triggered by George Floyd’s murder. The lush voicings in “Urgency,” extrapolation of the famous Silent Night melody in “Tone-Policing,” and exuberant joy expressed in “Resolve” share a courageous tone, approaching a painful subject matter with an open heart.
Tyshawn Sorey’s Requiem for Plague is dense and haunting, featuring murky harmonies that support disembodied high notes in the soprano. Sorey’s landscape is one of continued searching; with the many issues that have gained increased visibility over the last few years, Sorey powerfully asserts their continued urgency and importance with this wordless requiem. The album’s other wordless setting, Mary Jane Leach’s Alone Together, also suggests more questions than answers with its ominous harmonies.
Edith Canat de Chizy’s Rising Stars traces the process of renewal in a Walt Whitman’s “Out of the cradle endlessly rocking,” using chromatic clusters, word painting, and insistent repetition to capture a sense of awakening.
Joseph C. Phillips Jr’s The Undisappeared hearkens to those early days of the pandemic when the community collectively came together to cheer essential workers from our windows, capturing those moments of collective gratitude with full, illuminated harmonies.
L.J. White’s a carol called love sets poet Alex Dimitrov’s ongoing Twitter text in which he adds a new line starting with “I love…” every day. Individual members of the choir emerge from the murmuring of the other voices to intone deeply personal fragments.
In Everything Passes, Everything is Connected, Samantha Fernando explores isolation and connection through shimmering full choir harmonies and stark two voice textures.
Leila Adu-Gilmore’s Colouring-In Book is about overcoming the never ending process of facing the same struggles, both personal and societal. Nina Shekhar reimagines famous Christmas tunes and lyrics in her fantastical y-mas, refracting them through the lens of a child raised in a different culture.
Vanessa Lann’s Shining Still sets inspirational texts by Victorian poet Matthew Arnold, weaving together a series of interlocking phrases to create intensity and a call for resilience.Alex Berko’s Exodus investigates the saturation of the word “plague” in the Old Testament, and the portrayal of God as a protector in a passage from Exodus. The charged repetition of the text echoes the uncertainty of a child discovering their relationship with faith.
Viet Cuong’s Still So Much to Say sets fragments from David Ferry’s “Resemblance,” about regret over what is left unsaid in the face of death. Indeed, as we come out of a transformative era, there is still much to be said, about our experience of the last few years and about our renewed insight into the pertinent issues of our time. The Crossing’s beautiful curation and performances of these powerful works on this album are a testament to vocal music’s unique capacity to uplift us and represent an inspirational call to live fully and with intent.
01. Nally: Prelude: Adam
02. Nova: Carols After a Plague: I. Urgency
03. Nally: Interlude: No. 1, Wonder
04. Sorey: Requiem for a Plague
05. Nally: Interlude: No. 2, Dancing
06. Chizy: Rising Stars
07. Nally: Interlude: No. 3, Beauty
08. Jr.: The Undisappeared
09. Nally: Interlude: No. 4, Here
10. White: A Carol Called Love
11. Nally: Interlude: No. 5, Apparel
12. Fernando: Everything Passes, Everything Is Connected
13. Nally: Interlude: No. 6, Frightful
14. Adu-Gilmore: Colouring-in Book
15. Nally: Interlude: No. 7, Snowman
16. Shekhar: Y-Mas
17. Nally: Interlude: No. 8, Silent
18. Nova: Carols After a Plague: II. Tone-Policing
19. Nally: Interlude: No. 9, Peace
20. Lann: Shining Still
21. Nally: Interlude: No. 10, Fa/La
22. Leach: Alone Together
23. Nally: Interlude: No. 11, Eve
24. Berko: Exodus
25. Nally: Interlude: No. 12, Power
26. Cuong: Still So Much to Say
27. Nally: Interlude: No. 13, Gloria
28. Nova: Carols After a Plague: III. Resolve