American Declarations was recorded on the British label, Regent Records. This will be our fourth collaboration with this innovative niche company, and represents the talents of our wonderful singers, staff, engineer Daniel Ruder and producer Gary Cole. The repertoire ranges from the stirring to the enthralling, and covers different traditions of American chamber choirs, from the art song to the spiritual, and from a modern madrigal to a choral symphony. The CD was recorded in the warm acoustic of Second Presbyterian Church in the Central West End in early 2013.
Release date: November 10, 2013
For sound samples of selected tracks, click on the play button in front of the title to hear the first 45 seconds of the piece.
* First recording on CD
** World premiere recording
BBC Music (June 2014)
[5 stars, out of a possible 5]
A fascinating anthology tracing the development of a distinctive voice in American choral music. Half the items are first recordings, and the performances are consistently outstanding.
Gramophone (July 2014)
There are enough stirring words on 'American Declarations', the new disc from the Saint Louis Chamber Chorus, to compel a listener to pledge allegiance to a cappella choral music born in the USA. … The repertoire is especially welcome for its depth of feeling and superb craftsmanship. Beyond that, most of the music is probably unknown to any but choral aficionados, which makes the disc a treasure chest of discoveries. … The Saint Louis Chamber Chorus, led by Philip Barnes, performs everything with consummate attention to blend, clarity and expressive nuance.
Choir & Organ (May/June 2014)
[4 stars, out of a possible 5]
The individuality of the texts of this CD distinguishes it from the usual run of Americana, and there is much to interest the listener here. Words bring out the creative spirit of composers, and not surprisingly Walt Whitman looms large. The Saint Louis Chamber Chorus of some 51 voices has a well-rounded, warm tone, and the singers really excel when they have something to get their teeth into. … There are many composers to choose from, but the tour de force is Roy Harris's Symphony for Voices, a stunning piece of choral writing merging many different choral techniques to great effect. This is one to stay on the memory and the SLCC shows what they are made of.
When asked to review this CD, I approached it with a completely open mind, chiefly because none of the music was familiar to me. The description was interesting: "a major survey of American a cappella choral works, with music from the Symphony for Voices in three movements, William Schuman's Declaration Chorale, written for the United Nations in 1971, and Melissa Dunphy's immensely powerful What Do You Think I Fought For At Omaha Beach? I was not disappointed: this is indeed a virtuoso choir and every track has something to commend it. There are 51 singers - by English standards a large number for a chamber choir - but the quality of their singing is exceptional. The choir was founded in 1956 by Ronald Arnatt (a Briton) and has been directed since 1989 by Philip Barnes, who was educated at Bristol and Manchester Universities and brought up in the English cathedral tradition. He makes a particular point of commissioning new music, including pieces from Judith Bingham and Ned Rorem, and his commission, Sunset: St. Louis by Howard Helvey, makes a lovely epilogue to this CD. Nearly all the pieces are recorded on CD for the first time. The first track, by Dudley Buck (1839 - 1909), is in the style of Hubert Parry with a vigorous fugato. All the others have a particularly American significance, with music set, for example, to a letter of Abraham Lincoln to a mother who had lost five sons in the Civil War, a public testimony given before the State of Maine Senate, and passages from the Old Testament. This version of There is A Balm In Gilead is unusually dramatic. The three movements of Roy Harris's Symphony for Voices are Song for all seas, all ships; Tears; and Inscription; the whole is brilliantly written for unaccompanied voices. Of course I cannot describe music in words: you will have to be adventurous, buy this CD and get to know these striking works, which I find more compelling each time I listen to them. The performances are impeccable - a virtuoso choir indeed. [Richard Popple]
International Record Review
This is a most interesting programme of American choral music, very well sung by the St. Louis Chamber Chorus under its British-born conductor Philip Barnes. [Harris's Symphony] is a major work, written a couple of years before the Third Symphony, and the performance here does it the fullest justice. The CD booklet includes detailed notes on all the works and complete texts. The recorded sound remains clear throughout and doesn't get overloaded at big choral climaxes. Here is a really enterprising and well-made disc that should appeal to any collector of unusual American music.
American Record Guide
The only one of these works I had heard before was Harris's Symphony for Voices. The rest of the music was unknown to me, and I'm pleased to have made its acquaintance. … The choir sounds handsome and strong,
St. Louis Post-Dispatch
A varied and fascinating disc focused on American a cappella choral works. … There are some impressive achievements (the almost-16-minute “Symphony for Voices” by Roy Harris, Melissa Dunphy’s “What do you think I fought for at Omaha Beach?”), some touching moments, and one of the choir’s finest commissions of all time, the “Stabat Mater” setting by Stephen Paulus.
This is a very interesting and enterprising programme containing a good deal of unfamiliar music – several of the pieces are making their debut on CD. I should imagine that all the music is demanding to sing – and I’m sure it’s demanding to sing it this well. The performances are consistently accomplished and committed; Philip Barnes has clearly done a splendid job in training and motivating his choir. The engineers have obtained very successful results. … The disc maintains the excellent reputation that the Saint Louis Chamber Chorus has won through its previous discs and anyone who is interested in American music should certainly investigate.
The Saint Louis Chamber Chorus is one of the finest a cappella choirs I have heard and any listener who has the slightest appreciation of American a cappella singing is urged to investigate further. The fact that much of the material on this disc is ap.co. ukpearing on CD for the first time should also make it of great interest to those who like contemporary choral music.
Barnes and his singers meet the challenge (of Rozsa's psalm setting] completely. The ensemble's tone is beautiful -- recorded in a very "open" acoustic which swallows up some of their enunciation but compensates with a warm sound.