The Crossing / Donald Nally

Kile Smith: The Arc in the Sky

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Kile Smith: The Arc in the Sky Review

by James Manheim

The small choir The Crossing offers high-quality performances of innovative, mostly American works, and this release is a strong example. Composer Kile Smith blends contemporary modal sounds with influences from William Billings and other early American music (the latter are on display especially in the "Jerusalem" movement of The Arc in the Sky), with a strong tendency toward a counterpoint of independent vocal lines that seems to match his texts here in an uncanny way. The spiritual poetry here of Robert Lax, a colleague of the monk Thomas Merton, is an unusual blend itself, including influences from traditional Christian writings, Beat poetry, and even jazz. Partly it's that Smith partakes of jazz influences himself, designating them explicitly in the first section of the three that make up The Arc in the Sky. It's more than that, though; both composer and poet forge a mix that's elevated, even a bit mystical, but directly accessible and vernacular. All this goes very well with the clear but never remote sound of The Crossing, and the result is a strong choral release.

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