Children's Chorus of Washington

The Great American Folksong

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What you get here is not a traditional album of children singing famous American folk songs (the Michigan State University Children's Choir has issued one of those, if that's what you're looking for), but it may be something better. The Children's Chorus of Washington under director Joan Gregoryk maintains smooth intonation, but the news here is the repertory, devised with a multicultural group of collaborators and encompassing a good deal of contemporary material. The collaborators -- Cathy Fink and Marcy Marxer from the bluegrass/Appalachian side, and Kim and Reggie Harris from the realm of traditional African-American music -- contribute arrangements, vocals, and instrumental support. The basic accompaniment comes not from a piano (although one is present in the jazzy A Tisket, a Tasket, track 9), but from a string ensemble, which varies from banjo and mandolin to the bass that backs up several African-American spirituals. From both these traditions come more contemporary pieces (Ola Belle Reed's "High on a Mountain" from bluegrass, and "Up Over My Head," made famous by Sister Rosetta Tharpe, from gospel), as well as pieces that would generally be considered folk songs, and they're mixed in with music from Mexico, Israel, French Louisiana, and a few bona fide old American folk songs. The whole thing hangs together very nicely, and the youthful choristers seem to be having a good time performing the program. Dorian's engineering keeps their voices intelligible and is in general all that could be desired. This can be recommended to those who enjoy children's choral singing in general, and is specifically urged on those who work with children's choirs themselves because it offers numerous fresh ideas.

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