The 12 voices of Chanticleer (the only full-time professional choir in America) are justly famous for their exquisite tone and range, both vocally and stylistically. 12 men, but nothing is missing. The first two tracks, Es ist Ein Ros by Preatorius and the famous O Magnum Mysterium of Tomas Victoria are absolute gems -- as well as studies in perfection of choral tone and balance. The repertoire here runs from the early Renaissance (Josquin's O Virgo Virginum) to the more well-known 18th and 19th centuries (including the purest performance of Stille Nacht available) thru the American colonies (Billings' A Virgin Unspotted) up to the 20th century. This latter time period includes a marvelous little gem, Noel Canon, and a surprisingly lyrical composition by Charles Ives. Jennings (the director of the group) has chosen the original Holst version of In the Bleak Mid-winter (as opposed to the Harold Darke setting, which has become more popular over the last several years). This performance of the Holst is simply impossible to improve upon. Defintely one of my half-dozen picks for a desert-island Christmas CD. Highly recommended.
The opening "Est ist ein Ros" with it subtle phrasing, balance, and restraint set the tone for the rest of this exquisite album. "Es Ist Ein Ros" is such a frequently heard choral classic that it has become trite; Chanticleer's nuanced performance makes it fresh and endearing every time I hear it. "In the Bleak Mid-winter" has now become one of my favorite Christmas carols. And Chanticleer's rendition is the one that melts the winter from my heart better than any other. Most of the pieces on the album are from the Renaissance and therefore are well-suited to an all-male ensemble. Chanticleer handily sculpts each piece into a figurine in a sort of aural nativity . Even though some of the selections are more joyful, there is a meditative, reverent mood to this recording that sets such a wonderful tone for the Christmas season. It is not Christmas until I have listened to this recording at least once. So many Christmas albums are just fluff. This one is pure substance.
Christmas is our family's favorite season. Coming from a household of trained musicians and clasical music lovers, my personal standards for music are high. Go into any store and you find much of the same CD's- the old standards, with not much new being produced of good quality. What a find when I discovered this CD! This is destined to be a classic. The choral representations are wonderfully performed and challenge the ear with beauty. This CD is absolutely the best choral work I have heard in recent memory and promises to get repeat plays in our house over the Christmas season.....and beyond. Each male voice is superb, from countertenor to bass, and the blending of tones (not to mention the great intonation) is what you would expect to hear in Heaven! Bravo! A variety of known and not so familiar selections provides variety not found on other Christmas CD's. All are excellently performed. This is an absolute "must have" if choral music is something you enjoy. I hope this group continues to perform and record other Christmas selections in the future.
I could quite likely make it through the Christmas season with only this CD. Chanticleer is an ensemble that sets the highest standards for itself, in terms both of performance and production, and lives up to them with every album. This album presents a variety of languages, cultures, and time periods (Renaissance to American Gospel) and Chanticleer switches seamlessly from style to style, often in the same piece. The vocal sound and ensemble are unparalleled by any other group I've heard. Every line is clear and beautiful, from the bass up through the soaring countertenor voices. While there are occaisonally soloists, there really are no stars in this album - it is a performance by the entire group. The arrangements are also very creative, such as Silent Night with 3 verses, each in a different language, and In Dulci Jubilo with 4 verses, each by a different arranger. The bottom line, however, is the music itself. It doesn't matter how many different styles will fit on one album if the end result is musically lacking. That is not a concern here - music is first and foremost, and this album rises well above a densely-packed field of Christmas records.
Chanticleer is a group that you can always rely to provide a quality performance; in this album they exceed their own high standards. The most striking cut is the medley "Glory to the newborn King" with four sprituals. The arranged, Joseph Jennings, refused to provide music, rather he required that the choir learn to perform in the improvisational style of the black choirs from which he drew inspiration. This result is an absolutely stunning performance that is uniquely Chanticleer - not an attempt to sing a style that is not naturally theirs, but the creation of a style that is theirs. The remainder of the album contains a wide variety of music from the 15th century to contemporary music - worthy of special note is their rendition of "In the bleak mid-winter" and Billings' "A virgin unspotted". There are absolutely no mediocre cuts. Put this on your top 10 Christmas albums.
I simply don't have the words to describe the sublimity of this CD. Breathtaking? Sublime? I'm not sure words have been invented for it. It was my first Chanticleer CD, recommended by a music club, and it certainly hasn't been my last, but it's still my favorite. I love it so much that I listen to it year-round--even in the heat of summer, when I put on this CD, it's Christmastime to me by the end of "Es ist ein Ros". The voices are simply amazing. It sounds like angels singing. I think part of the haunting, resounding sound that sets this CD apart from other choral CDs (and even from other Chanticleer ones) is that it was recorded in a cathedral, so there are some amazing acoustics. I don't know all that much about music theory, so I'm sure my words seem amateurish and maybe a little silly, but this is a truly glorious CD.
Sing We Christmas is a terrific CD for those who like their Christmas music to have a touch of mystery and mysticism. The exquisite versions of "Hier Ist Ein Ros' Entsprungen" and "In Dulci Jubilo" alone are worth the price of the CD, but there are also many fascinating rarities, including an obscure (but very melodic) Christmas carol by Charles Ives and a honey-sweet set of spirituals. The twelve voices of Chanticleer reaffirm the beauty of unaccompanied, classically trained voices raised together in song. Playing this CD is enough to make any Christmas special.
This is in my top ten favorite vocal albums of all time--and I have hundreds. The human voice, unadorned by other instruments, makes the most beautiful music in the world, and these singers do it better than almost anyone else. Their vocal range, the feeling with which they perform, their communication with one another and their audience, are all apparent here. This can bring tears to you eyes.