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01 December 2016

CD REVIEW: soft blink of amber light

by Shirley Ratcliffe (Choir & Organ)

SOFT BLINK OF AMBER LIGHT
Houston Chamber Choir / Robert Simpson (dir)
MSR Classics MS 1499 (wp recordings) [56:13]
 

Five Stars.

Poetic titles are frustrating as they don't give you any indication about the contents! This disc contains works by five very gifted American composers performed by the extremely talented Houston Chamber Choir under founder-director Robert Simpson. Here is one of the finest blends of voices I have come across in a long time, and the audience-friendly, diverse settings are in no way dumbed down. David Ashley White's The Blue Estuary is four contrasted pieces that colour the text and create a special atmosphere. Jocelyn Hagen's soft blink of amber light with its gentle use of flute, clarinet, marimba and piano gives a celestial feel to the setting. Messages to Myself by Christopher Theofanidis has stunning climaxes and a lucid merging of harmony which shows the hand of a master, while Wayne Oquin's take on O Magnum Mysterium pays only a short visit to the chant but has an aura all its own. Dominick DiOrio's A Dome of Many-Coloured Glass, with a virtuosic part for marimba player Scott Simpson, provides a triumphant ending to a very interesting programme. An innate understanding of interpretation by the singers coupled with a choice of interesting texts and music makes this CD a must, but I wonder who thought W.B. Yeats was an Englishman? Oh dear...