A SOUTHWEST CHRISTMAS
Ed HENDERSON (b1932)
Milagros de Navidad
Jon WASHBURN (b1942)
Noel Sing We! [11.14]
Lo, how a rose e'er blooming [3.04]
The Star [8.52]
Hernando FRANCO (1532 - 1585)
Magnificat secundi toni
Johann Sebastian BACH (1685 - 1750)
Phoenix Bach Choir
Robert Tree Cody. Native American flute.
Frank Koonce. Classical Guitar.
Mark Sunkett. Percussion.
Jon Washburn. Narrator.
Conductor Jon Washburn
Recorded Jan 17 - 20 1997 All Saints Episcopal Church, Phoenix.
I listened to this recording late in the afternoon of a lovely June day in
the Southwest of England - even though the CD is A Southwest Christmas
and the Southwest referred to is Arizona - Phoenix to be more precise.
Wrong geographically and wrong in timing, too, I enjoyed the disc even though
listening to carols today was a little bizarre.
The programme is built around the Phoenix Bach Choir, a fully professional
body that began as a Bach and Madrigal Society and still has a considerable
emphasis on music of the Baroque and Renaissance. Under its regular conductor,
Jon Washburn, who contributed to the programme as a composer, the Choir showed
that it is an excellent unit. Clearly well-rehearsed, with commendable clarity
of diction and a good balance in its sections and a full overall sound, it
sang with feeling and skill in a virtually completely a capella programme.
To UK listeners, certain items on the disc are not what we would expect to
hear at a concert over here. The opening Milagros de Navidad (The
Miracle of Christmas) has solos and alternate verses sung in Spanish - even
Away in a Manger that we would regard as a traditional English carol
had Spanish text in with the English. Similarly Silent Night (originally
German I believe) had Spanish verses. Nothing wrong there, it is just a little
disconcerting to hear.
Apart from a guitar and a minimum of percussion, the only non-vocal music
came from a Native American flute in the Washburn composition Noel Sing
We! based on three old Christmas texts to which original tunes have been
added. Two chant interludes linked the three and this plainchant interlude
had a telling effect. A finely sung Magnificat by Hernando Franco
had a combination of polyphony with plainchant and the two other Washburn
pieces incorporate a traditional carol as well as newly-written material.
Five small pieces and chorales by Bach were amalgamated under the heading
Well recorded, this slightly unusual CD might appeal for Christmas if sampling
in the shop is possible.