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HOME TO THANKSGIVING: SONGS OF THANKS AND PRAISE
William BILLINGS (1746 -1800) Thanksgiving Anthem: O Praise The Lord of Heaven¹; Jordan¹; Chester¹
Timothy SWAN (1758 - 1842) Rainbow¹ (text by Isaac Watts)
William TANS'UR (1706 - 1783) Colchester¹ (text Psalm 122)
Jeremiah INGALLS (1764 - 1838) The Apple Tree²
Nehemiah SHUMWAY (1761 - 1843) Schenectady¹ (text by Isaac Watts)
Elisha WEST (1756 - c.1808) Evening Hymn¹ (text by John Leland)
Abraham WOOD (1752 - 1804) Worcester¹ (text by Isaac Watts)
John CAGE (1912 - 1992) The Year Begins To Be Ripe
Thomas TALLIS (c.1505 - 1585) Audivi Vocem²; Benedictus²
Howard SKEMPTON (b. 1947) The Keel Row II³
Peter ABELARD (1079 - 1142) O Quanta Qualia²
Paul HILLIER It Was Summer Now (text by Gertrude Stein)
ANON/TRAD Brigg Fair³; Benedicamus Deo²; Epithalamica*; Give Good Gifts One To The Other (Mount Lebanon Hymnal)º
His Majestie's Clerkes¹
Theatre of Voices²
Andrew Lawrence-King, harp³
Pro Arte Singers (women's voices)*
Catherine Webster, Moira Smiley, Daniel Carberg, Sumner Thompson, voicesº
Paul Hillier, voice/director
No recording dates given; disc compiled from Paul Hillier's various HM recordings.
HARMONIA MUNDI USA HMX 2907264
[58.06]

This disc was first released in 1999 and, as well as being a lovely celebration of thanksgiving, is a worthy and worthwhile tribute to its multi-talented creator, Paul Hillier. I first encountered Hillier in the early 90s, singing French troubadour songs on the ECM label, and I have yet to find anything of his less than stimulating. He is know much associated with Arvo Pärt, originally via the Hilliard Ensemble and, more recently, as his biographer, but here the net is cast rather wider.

Many of the tracks chosen for inclusion are performed by His Majestie's Clerkes, including most of those by William Billings and his contemporaries. For those not familiar with Billings, he was perhaps the central figure in the first flowering of a New England musical tradition that has more recently influenced Henry Cowell (in his series of Hymns and Fuguing Tunes), John Adams (the clarinet concerto, Gnarly Buttons, is built around the "shape note" tradition) and, above all, Charles Ives, albeit often in transmuted form. The revolutionary "hymn" Chester , included here, was used as one source for William Schuman's inventive New England Triptych. Another, When Jesus wept, not included in this collection, has also recently appeared on Jan Garbarek's last collaboration with the Hilliards (Mnemosyne).

Although these "Yankee psalmodists" provide the bulk of the material here, we are also transported back to various previous times (in the guise of Thomas Tallis, Peter Abelard and 12th century anonymous monastic songs) and forwards to the present day. Howard Skempton's brief but haunting instrumental is beautifully played by long-time Hillier associate, Andrew Lawrence-King, and Hillier himself gives voice to short but moving settings of John Cage and Gertrude Stein, in the latter case providing the music himself. Add to this Lawrence-King playing Brigg Fair on his mercurial harp and a life-affirming hymn from the late 19th century Mount Lebanon collection, and you have an hour of varied, interesting and always beautifully performed music which should appeal to listeners in America and beyond. I particularly urge you to investigate this if you are at all interested in the musical soil from which Ives and Schuman drew some of their primary inspirations. The booklet notes are excellently informative and the whole package (a digipack adorned by a classic Currier and Ives woodcut) is superbly put together. Far more than just a sampler!

Neil Horner


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