Yale Schola Cantorum / Simon Carrington

Sing, Ye Birds, a Joyous Song

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Collegiate choral singing is nowhere near the industry in the U.S. that it is in Britain, but the Yale Schola Cantorum and a few other choirs continue to attract top-flight conductors from abroad and, from time to time, to put out interesting releases like this one. The Schola Cantorum has also enjoyed the services of Masaaki Suzuki, and between him and Carrington, a former member of the King's Singers, it has attained a high level of pitch accuracy. More than that, the singers show themselves adept in the widely varying collection of styles on this release, even among the Renaissance pieces. John Taverner's Western Wind Mass is one of the landmarks of early Renaissance English polyphony, with sweeping, irregular lines and dense, non-imitative polyphony that requires close small-group ensemble work. Orlando Gibbons' Magnificat and Nunc dimittis are splendid examples of high Renaissance sacred music, with a rousing, rock-solid Magnificat followed by a deeply meditative Nunc dimittis, while Tallis' Te lucis ante terminum is spare and revealing of any possible flaws. So far, so good, yet the real appeal lies elsewhere: the sound of the choir is quite different from those of its English counterparts, with fuller, richer voices shaped by the experience of American music and culture, and this is perhaps what appeals to the foreign conductors. It proves ideally suited to Richard Rodney Bennett's broadly appealing The Glory and the Dream, a work commissioned in the year 2000 by a group of American, Canadian, British, and Australian choirs. The work sets parts of William Wordsworth's long poem Intimations of Immortality from Recollections of Early Childhood, a progenitor of the Romantic exaltation of youth, and to hear it sung with the peculiar enthusiasm of this group is a real pleasure. Notes, some of them written by the student choir members, and reasonable sound from a large Episcopal church in New Haven are other attractions.

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