Mostly known for their recordings of standard choir repertoire (such as Christmas carols), the Gregg Smith Singers are also well-versed in contemporary classical music. They have had many works composed for them, and their performances have been instrumental in introducing some of them to a wider audience. Like Shining was recorded in 1999 at the Canterbury United Methodist Church in Birmingham (AL). The program is constituted of works by active composers (the concept behind the Living Artist Recordings label). All are for unaccompanied mixed chorus, except Charles Norman Mason's "From Shook Foil," which includes a tape part, and Andrew Rindfleisch's "Lady Evergreen Song," for solo mezzo-soprano and choir. Most composers use the solemnity of the choir to develop spiritual themes -- generally dark ones. Mason's first piece wraps the electro-acoustic component around the ensemble to great effect, but his "Anthem of Despair and Hope," after a sonnet by Gerard Manley Hopkins, is more gripping, thanks to long, sustained notes that send shivers down the listener's spine. Bruce Reiprich's "Dusk" uses complex chords evolving slowly to illustrate the changing colors accompanying the end of the day. Very powerful, it stands out as the CD's highlight. Mark Zuckerman's "Proverbs for Four at Fifty," shorter meditations on Hebrew texts from the Book of Proverbs, also feature some clever harmonies. The other pieces are by Dorothy Hindman and William Vollinger. No matter the quality of the compositions, the Gregg Smith Singers manage to render them bigger than life through excellent interpretations.
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AllMusic Review by François Couture