This small Florida-based choir (13 voices here) has performed some mainstream classical repertory over its decade of existence, but it is at its most distinctive when trying to create an American small-group sound, a field in which it has very little competition. This Christmas release for chorus and harp presents the group in a favorable light, in an intimate atmosphere that for the most part they meet the challenge of maintaining. Many of the pieces are arranged for harp, and they're picked effectively. Director Patrick Dupré Quigley lets traditional tunes like the Huron Carol (sung in English) bounce off Poulenc, Britten, Holst, and the contemporary giants: John Rutter and Morten Lauridsen. The music never cloys, and there are some nice finds, like the old Norman Luboff arrangement of the Austrian carol Still, Still, Still. Ultimately the group does very well with these traditional pieces; they do not sound amateurish, but they don't try to meet the English cathedral choirs in their rarefied vaults; the sound is direct, has some texture, and is coordinated with a real sense of singers working together. Probably an investment in a higher-powered engineering team would benefit the recordings of this group, but even as it stands they're doing well because they offer something unusual.
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AllMusic Review by James Manheim
|A Ceremony of Carols|