One of the underreported stories in classical music in the 2000s and especially the 2010s is the penetration of American choral music, especially from the Midwest and still more specifically from Minnesota, into the performing repertoire of choirs in Britain and even continental Europe. Here, from England's venerable Choir of Royal Holloway under Rupert Gough, you get music by one of the most familiar American choral composers, Stephen Paulus, along with one not so familiar to listeners outside the collegiate-choir orbit, René Clausen. Each of these composers shows traces of European styles, incorporated into a distinctly American idiom. Many of the pieces are a cappella, but several have accompaniment by a harp, and the title work (on a 19th century hymn text by Edmund Sears) also includes a violin. The music is written with American college choirs in mind, and the somewhat cleaner top ranges of the Choir of Royal Holloway are all to the good in the chilling soprano divisi passages of a work like Clausen's La lumière (track five). Paulus' music, despite the harp that may suggest Benjamin Britten, has 20th century French accents, while Clausen's limpid harmonies evoke Baltic holy minimalism in a context of typically American warmth. Fans of American choral music will want this release, which has some attractive small pieces by Paulus; total newcomers might start with Eric Whitacre or Morten Lauridsen instead.
AllMusic Review by James Manheim
|Three Whitman settings|
|The Lotus Lovers|