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Early American Choral Music Vol. 1. His Majestie's Clerkes

Paul Hillier (director) His Majestie's Clerkes Audio CD
4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
Price: CDN$ 11.13 & FREE Shipping on orders over CDN$ 25. Details
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Amazon.ca

William Billings (1746-1800) was one of the first important composers born in America. A leather tanner by trade who taught himself composition, Billings left behind some lovely, unique music that contains early indications of American musical independence. It often doesn't sound like European models. Today, Billings's music survives mostly in Southern shape-note singing, with its exciting raw tone and rhythmic vitality. But as Paul Hillier's selection demonstrates, Billings shouldn't just be characterized as musical folk artist. The "Funeral Anthem: Samuel the Priest" has harmonies so poignant that they remind us of Bach, and the brief "David's Lamentation" is a superb piece of musical characterization, heartbreakingly effective. Despite the ensemble's name, it's thoroughly American. The performances find a good middle ground between sounding too folksy and sounding too cultivated, and the group's diction is clear enough that we can do without the texts, which came with the original edition. This is a lovely disc, which will come to most listeners as a revelation. It's also an outstanding bargain. --Leslie Gerber

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Most helpful customer reviews
4.0 out of 5 stars Interesting and Lovely Music Feb. 24 2004
Format:Audio CD
This CD was issued originally as "A Land of Pure Delight" on the Harmonia Mundi label. Billings was the first major American composer, an apparently self taught composer with a distinctive and powerful style. A real American original, Billings' work has several interesting features. He did wonderful things writing for choirs and some of his work seems to sound like earlier, polyphonic music. This recording has features a selection of fine pieces. Lovely performances.
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5.0 out of 5 stars this was our country's music c.30 decades ago! Oct. 16 2001
Format:Audio CD
I am fairly new to this series, but I now own 3 cds in this series: Anna Mag. Bach Book, Festive barouque christmas and now this one. I have been looking for a cd with this kind of music, and now my search is done. I enjoy this cd very much, but the only down side is that this cd is too short.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
Amazon.com: 4.4 out of 5 stars  9 reviews
26 of 27 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A great find--worth more than its price Sept. 2 2004
By Amazon Customer - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Audio CD
This is all music by William Billings, one of the giant figures of early American church music. It is sung by a fine group that specializes in early music. The music is often hearty and pleasing, and the textual themes deal with early colonial life (e.g., harvest & the coming winter) and sometimes complex theology (e.g., pietistic interpretations of the Song of Solomon). The overall sound of the music is straightfoward, as it was no doubt to appeal to the common folk (new world Protestants). But don't let that fool you--there's high quality construction in these hymns that elevates them above folk music. Some of the songs really grab you & stay with you. This is a gift & an important part of our American heritage & culture.
17 of 18 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Interesting and Lovely Music Feb. 24 2004
By R. Albin - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Audio CD
This CD was issued originally as "A Land of Pure Delight" on the Harmonia Mundi label. Billings was the first major American composer, an apparently self taught composer with a distinctive and powerful style. A real American original, Billings' work has several interesting features. He did wonderful things writing for choirs and some of his work seems to sound like earlier, polyphonic music. This recording has features a selection of fine pieces. Lovely performances.
14 of 18 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars this was our country's music c.30 decades ago! Oct. 16 2001
By Daniel Ponder - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Audio CD
I am fairly new to this series, but I now own 3 cds in this series: Anna Mag. Bach Book, Festive barouque christmas and now this one. I have been looking for a cd with this kind of music, and now my search is done. I enjoy this cd very much, but the only down side is that this cd is too short.
9 of 12 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A Delightful Recording July 24 2005
By Peggy Stone - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Audio CD|Verified Purchase
Since buying this a week or so ago, it has rarely left my CD player, and is equally pleasurable at the start or end of the day. The performances are energetic and moving, and make me long for my former days with a cathedral choir, when #16 was one of our favorites. With each hearing, I find more to delight me. (While I agree that the diction is good enough that lyrics on the liner notes aren't strictly necessary, they would have been a nice addition.)
3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars How well do you like this kind of music? Feb. 20 2006
By September_Goldenrod - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Audio CD
I ended up ordering this CD, as well as Vol. 2, and "Make A Joyful Noise: American Psalmody." I thought the quality was excellent on all three, but I wanted to say that if you're not sure how well you like this kind of music, I would recommend the American Psalmody CD instead of the two CD set. I found myself enjoying the music very much at first, but quickly losing interest as it all began to sound alike to me.
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