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Resonant Streams – Choral Music from Sun to Sea
Sally Risking (violin and fiddle), Nathan Whittaker (cello), Serena Chin (piano), Sophie Baird-Daniel (harp), Miriam Anderson (percussion)
University of Washington Chorale/Giselle Wyers
rec. 2014/16, Seattle
MSR CLASSICS MS1642 [56:01]

This is at least the third CD of a choir described in the booklet as “an advanced undergraduate ensemble containing students from all majors across the Seattle campus”. Their conductor Giselle Wyers, who is also a composer, is a professor of choral music at the University of Washington in Seattle. She has though conducted many choirs across the Americas and in Europe.

The recorded programme is highly eclectic and offers the choir an opportunity to demonstrate various facets of their ability and is a rare case where, if you so chose, you could play the disc right through from beginning to end and always be kept interested, although I formed the opinion that the choir enjoyed the more contemporary pieces the most, not surprisingly especially the American ones, and gave them a strong and memorable character.

The main issue and annoyance for me is the complete lack of texts. The choir diction is quite often good but time and again it could also be unclear not helped by the composers whose complex counterpoint gets in the way of the words, not unusual of course, so all the more reason for texts. Space was found for the quite lengthy and dull as ditch water biographies of the choir and of the conductor but the eight-sided booklet including a colour photo of the fifty or so strong choir proved the presentation is somewhat disappointing. Giselle Wyers’s notes are useful but limited. In addition the programme weighs in a just under the hour, a little short of what is generally expected.

But accepting all of that, what are the highlights if you should have a chance to sample a few tracks. Funnily enough you could go to the last track Soila Soriola’s setting of words from the Finnish ‘Kalavala’, Nouse Lauluni, written partially as the notes admit for “a single voice accompanied by pseudo-pop back-up singers”. I love the energy the choir put into this piece and there is an audience for this ‘Encore’ item who warmly applaud them.

Another highlight is Richard Bjella’s clever and atmospheric arrangement of an Appalachian melody ‘Idumea’ which, I quote, is ‘sung with bright, unpolished vowels and unflinching intensity”. Its like nothing else you will ever quite come across. Also quite original and memorable is Libby Larson’s Comin’ to Town a cowboy song with suitable ‘whooping’ and ‘cheering’ this comes from a bigger piece called ‘The Settling Years’ which uses the poetry of the early American Settlers.

Instrumental participation is occasional but effective. For example the percussion improvised, Karl Jenkyns-like, and in a Brazilian style by Miriam Anderson in the Salve Regina by Lars Jansson is a joy. Nathan Whittaker plays a passionate counterpoint to Joshua Rist’s Invictus and we have a piano in David Pinkham’s ‘Awake O North Wind.’

The subtitle of the disc ‘Music from Sun to Sea’ links us particularly with the folk song arrangements. These have been ‘an enduring part of the choral experience, allowing us to learn more about ourselves” writes Wyers. They chose pieces from Sweden, Finland, China and Taiwan and we have texts like Goa Shan Qing which mentions the “lass” as like to “beautiful clear water”. And in the Swedish folk song Kristallen den Fina the young maiden is likened ‘to fine sparkling crystal which shines in the sun”. The CD opens with Holst’s Hymn to the Waters and there are several other such connections.

The choir can sometimes seem to be a little too big for their own good so that some lighter passages are a little heavy, also, as I said, the diction is not always as one would want. The recorded balance is weighted a little too much towards the higher voices and there are some intonation issues, but having said all that, I have found this to be an enjoyable and uniquely programmed disc with several pieces I would like to track down and put on myself. The choir are enthusiastic and have several good quality soloists. So despite my various caveats, on balance the disc is worth searching out.

Gary Higginson

Gustav HOLST (1874-1934) Hymn to the Waters (from the Rig Veda) [2.08]
Guillaume BOUZIGNAC (c.1587-1643) Surge Amica Mea [1.44]
Marc-Antoine CHARPENTIER (1643-1704) Tunc Respexit from La Reniement de St. Pierre [2.26]
Chinese Folk Song arranged Reed CRIDDLE (b.1981) Gao Shan Qing [3.20]
Gabriel FAURÉ (1845-1924) Cantique de Jan Racine [5.41]
Giselle WYERS And Love be written on running water [3.41]
Richard BJELLA (arr) Sacred Harp Hymn -Idumea [4.52]
Joshua RIST Invictus [4.57]
Barlow BRADFORD Give me the Splendid, Silent Sun [6.12]
Chinese Folk Song arranged Hyo-Won (b.1974) Mo Li Hua [3.15]
Swedish Folk Song (arr. Ericksson) Kristallen Den Fina [2.29]
Lars JANSSON (b.1951) Salve Regina ‘For the Mothers of Brazil’ [3.50]
Daniel PINKHAM (1923-2006) Awake O North Wind from Wedding Cantata [1.47]
Libby LAARSEN (b.1950) Comin’ to Town from The Settling Year [2.51]
Richard RODGERS (1902-1979) Oklahoma! [3.11]
Encore Item: SOILA SARIOLA (b.1977) Nouse Lauluni [3.23]



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