MusicWeb International One of the most grown-up review sites around 2024
60,000 reviews
... and still writing ...

Search MusicWeb Here Acte Prealable Polish CDs

Presto Music CD retailer
Founder: Len Mullenger                                    Editor in Chief:John Quinn             

Some items
to consider

new MWI
Current reviews

old MWI
pre-2023 reviews

paid for

Acte Prealable Polish recordings

Forgotten Recordings
Forgotten Recordings
All Forgotten Records Reviews

Troubadisc Weinberg- TROCD01450

All Troubadisc reviews

FOGHORN Classics

Brahms String Quartets

All Foghorn Reviews

All HDTT reviews

Songs to Harp from
the Old and New World

all Nimbus reviews

all tudor reviews

Follow us on Twitter

Editorial Board
MusicWeb International
Founding Editor
Rob Barnett
Editor in Chief
John Quinn
Contributing Editor
Ralph Moore
   David Barker
Jonathan Woolf
MusicWeb Founder
   Len Mullenger


Advertising on

Donate and keep us afloat


New Releases

Naxos Classical
All Naxos reviews

Hyperion recordings
All Hyperion reviews

Foghorn recordings
All Foghorn reviews

Troubadisc recordings
All Troubadisc reviews

all Bridge reviews

all cpo reviews

Divine Art recordings
Click to see New Releases
Get 10% off using code musicweb10
All Divine Art reviews

All Eloquence reviews

Lyrita recordings
All Lyrita Reviews


Wyastone New Releases
Obtain 10% discount

Subscribe to our free weekly review listing



CD: AmazonUK AmazonUS
Download: Classicsonline

American Choral Premieres
Alan HOVHANESS (1911-2000)
Four Motets, Op. 268 (1973) [11:54]
Egon COHEN (b. 1984)
Stabat Mater (2006) [8:01]
Paul NICHOLSON (b. 1963)
Velum temple (1998) [4:03]
Paul FRENCH (b. 1959)
Who Am I? (2007) [5:37]
Easley BLACKWOOD (b. 1933)
A King James Magnificat (2004) [12:49]
Robert KREUTZ (1922-1996)
Scapulis Suis (1960) [2:07]
William FERRIS (1937-2000)
Lyrica Sacra (1962) [7:32]
William C. WHITE (b. 1983)
Nunc Dimittis (2007) [8:23]
George ROCHBERG (1918-2005)
Behold, My Servant (1973) [8:06]
William Ferris Chorale/Paul French
rec. Our Lady of Mount Carmel Church, Chicago, 21-22 May 2007 and 12, 13, 15 May 2008
Texts and English translations included
CEDILLE RECORDS CDR90000109 [64:10]


Experience Classicsonline

This choir, established in 1971 and named after their founder, who directed them until his sudden death in 2000, seems to be affiliated to Our Lady of Mount Carmel Church, Chicago, where Paul French, the Chorale’s director since 2005, is director of music. I’m unsure of the size of the choir but a photograph on their website suggests a membership of around twenty four. From its inception the choir has performed a great deal of contemporary music and it’s appropriate, therefore, that all the music included here should have been written in the last fifty years and much of it by composers who are still living.

The choice of repertoire, all of it unaccompanied, is varied and enterprising and although all the pieces sound challenging for the performers – and some present challenges to the listener as well – all the music is very accessible and interesting. The listener’s appreciation of the music is helped enormously by the fact that the singing is consistently immaculate. The choir blends beautifully, tuning seems to be impeccable, the balance is excellent and diction is crystal clear. In short, this is a first class choir, whose singing gave me great pleasure. I didn’t think I’d come across the William Ferris Chorale before and certainly I hadn’t heard any of the music before – all of the pieces receive their first recordings here. In fact, with the exception of Alan Hovhaness all the composers here represented were new to me.

The programme has a definite Chicago bias. Paul French lives and works there, as did William Ferris, while Paul Nicholson presumably also resides in the city since he is the choir’s accompanist. At least three of the other composers also are based in the city.

One of these is Easley Blackwood and I must confess that I was a mite apprehensive when I saw his name for, though I have never heard any of his music, I have read that much of his output has been atonal and experimental in nature. However, his A King James Magnificat is neither atonal nor experimental. In fact, though very cleverly written, it seems to be rooted very strongly in the American choral tradition. Its title refers to the fact that the text of the Magnificat that Blackwood employs is from the King James Bible. Indeed, all the pieces in this collection that have biblical texts use the King James Version.  Blackwood employs open, almost innocent harmonic language in his setting though the writing is sophisticated, for example in the use of a different key for every verse, though the listener would be hard put to it to spot all the changes. Though the music is modern in tone it seems to me to breathe the same air as the music of the American primitives such as William Billings (1746–1800) and the marvellously named Supply Belcher (1751-1836) and I wonder if this is a conscious act of homage by Blackwood. It’s a most ingenious, varied and attractive setting.

I don’t know if Blackwood wrote a companion setting of the Nunc Dimittis but for this programme one of his pupils, William C White, provides the setting of that canticle instead. His setting is quite unusual – and non-liturgical – for he goes beyond the well-known verses from St Luke’s Gospel that constitute the Song of Simeon. Instead he sets all of verses 25 to 35 of that Gospel, which contains the whole narrative of the encounter between Simeon and the Holy Family. The setting is for six-part choir and it’s a most interesting work, making excellent use of varied rhythms and choral textures.

Egon Cohen was also a composition pupil of Blackwood. He contributes a setting of the Stabat Mater in an English translation. Actually, unlike composers such as Rossini and Verdi, Cohen doesn’t set the whole of this substantial medieval poem, contenting himself with just eight stanzas. The musical material for each verse is different, but grows out of the music for verse one. The music is consistently interesting – note, for example, the piquant harmonic shifts in lines three and six – and illustrates the text well. At the conclusion the music of verse one returns gently in the last line followed by a pair of Amens, unexpectedly but effectively harmonised.

The programme also includes a small triptych of pieces by William Ferris, the founder of the choir. These little sacred pieces fall very pleasingly on the ear and are fastidiously crafted. The choir sings them very well but, then, they sing the entire programme very well. The piece by George Rochberg belongs to his later, tonal phrase. Behold, My Servant draws on three sources for its words: William Blake; the prophet Isaiah; and Psalm 148. In its relatively short span the piece combines some passages of great beauty with some that are powerful and dramatic. It shares with the Blackwood Magnificat a constructive approach to tradition. Like Blackwood, Rochberg here respects the American choral tradition but also puts his own stamp on it, especially through some challenging and unexpected harmonic shifts.

All the pieces on this disc are expertly crafted and fully justify their inclusion in what is a very worthwhile collection. It’s clear that the performances have been scrupulously prepared and they’re immaculately delivered by Paul French and his singers. The recording, made in the Chicago church with which the performers are associated is similarly immaculate, presenting the music in clear, atmospheric sound. The booklet, one of the most clearly printed that I’ve encountered for a long time – these details are important – contains all the texts plus extensive and first class notes by Andrea Lamoreaux.

As I said, I thought at first that I’d not come across the William Ferris Chorale before but in fact a search of my shelves unearthed a 1997 disc of music by Leo Sowerby, including his large-scale choral work, The Throne of God, on which they appear under the direction of their founder (Albany TROY232). I recall the music on that disc as being worthy but not especially memorable. That’s most certainly not an accusation to level against this present offering, which shows this fine choir to good advantage and gives us further proof that some high quality choral music has been written in the USA in recent years.

John Quinn





Making a Donation to MusicWeb

Writing CD reviews for MWI

About MWI
Who we are, where we have come from and how we do it.

Site Map

How to find a review

How to find articles on MusicWeb
Listed in date order

Review Indexes
   By Label
      Select a label and all reviews are listed in Catalogue order
   By Masterwork
            Links from composer names (eg Sibelius) are to resource pages with links to the review indexes for the individual works as well as other resources.

Themed Review pages

Jazz reviews


      Composer surveys
      Unique to MusicWeb -
a comprehensive listing of all LP and CD recordings of given works
Prepared by Michael Herman

The Collector’s Guide to Gramophone Company Record Labels 1898 - 1925
Howard Friedman

Book Reviews

Complete Books
We have a number of out of print complete books on-line

With Composers, Conductors, Singers, Instumentalists and others
Includes those on the Seen and Heard site


Nostalgia CD reviews

Records Of The Year
Each reviewer is given the opportunity to select the best of the releases

Monthly Best Buys
Recordings of the Month and Bargains of the Month

Arthur Butterworth Writes

An occasional column

Phil Scowcroft's Garlands
British Light Music articles

Classical blogs
A listing of Classical Music Blogs external to MusicWeb International

Reviewers Logs
What they have been listening to for pleasure



Bulletin Board

Give your opinions or seek answers

Past and present

Helpers invited!

How Did I Miss That?

Currently suspended but there are a lot there with sound clips

Composer Resources

British Composers

British Light Music Composers

Other composers

Film Music (Archive)
Film Music on the Web (Closed in December 2006)

Programme Notes
For concert organizers

External sites
British Music Society
The BBC Proms
Orchestra Sites
Recording Companies & Retailers
Online Music
Agents & Marketing
Other links
Web News sites etc

A pot-pourri of articles

MW Listening Room
MW Office

Advice to Windows Vista users  
Site History  
What they say about us
What we say about us!
Where to get help on the Internet
CD orders By Special Request
Graphics archive
Currency Converter
Web Ring
Translation Service

Rules for potential reviewers :-)
Do Not Go Here!
April Fools

Return to Review Index

Untitled Document

Reviews from previous months
Join the mailing list and receive a hyperlinked weekly update on the discs reviewed. details
We welcome feedback on our reviews. Please use the Bulletin Board
Please paste in the first line of your comments the URL of the review to which you refer.