Richard Lee

Gilles Vigneault & Bruno Fecteau: Grand Messe

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This live disc seems to be primarily intended for the Quebec market; the booklet is in French only. Actually, even Francophones won't get much out of it; the booklet consists simply of biographies of the composers and performers, along with the unique mass text employed (it is in French, Latin, and Inuktitut). It's too bad readers, in whatever language, don't learn more about the music, which represents quite an unusual collaboration. Gilles Vigneault is a prominent Quebec singer/songwriter, long prominently identified with the province's independence movement but apparently down with the issuing of his work by the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (whose engineers handle the live situation so well that you often forget you're listening to a live recording). Bruno Fecteau is identified as his musical director. Their partnership in creating a full orchestral setting of an established text, with a variety of writing for chorus and a quartet of soloists, might bring to mind Paul McCartney's classical pieces, which have been assisted by formally trained composers. The effect is different, however. Vigneault's mass movements are not like popular songs, and not like cinema music, either. The composers set each text straightforwardly, but distinctively, with a simplicity that would evoke neo-classic music if the harmonic language were not so thoroughly diatonic. Each movement is short, and the whole thing adds up to only a bit over half an hour. There are hints of sentiment, but the music is neither syrupy nor bombastic, and the writing gives the soloists a chance to show their stuff singly and in groups. That's the best part: this performance attracted a group of Quebec's best-known singers, and countertenor Daniel Taylor has some really haunting passages. A fascinating project, recommended to anyone who enjoys crossover choral music and to any choral group.

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