Various Artists

A Sacred Christmas [Jade]

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It's hard to discern any connecting thread between the selections on this CD, apart from the theme of Christmas and the fact that all the works are choral pieces. The performing groups represented include a mixed chamber choir from Cuba accompanied by harpsichord and chamber orchestra, a Spanish children's choir, a choir of adults and children from Buenos Aires, a Spanish Monastic choir, and gospel choir. The music is similarly diverse, from an austere Classical-era motet accompanied by strings to Gregorian chant to Latin-flavored pop. In spite of the incongruous mix, each piece is fully satisfying, taken on its own terms. Coro Exaudi de la Habana, which performs Baroque and Classical repertoire, is testimony to very high performance standards in Cuba, not the first place that comes to mind as a center of lively and authentic performances of early European music. Their recorded sound is especially clear and bright. The Benedictine Monks of Santo Domingo de Silos perform traditional chants with great energy in a setting with a boomy, resonant acoustic. The children's choir of Escalonia de Montserrat gives radiant, ethereal performances of two movements of Britten's "Ceremony of Carols" that are all the more charming for being sung in Spanish. Gospel Dream, whose home country isn't identified, sings a lovely, lightly accented gospel version of "Silent Night." This CD should be of strong interest to anyone who enjoys shuffling a wide range of Christmas albums, but with this CD, you don't have to worry about coming up with any duds.

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