CHRISTMAS FROM SAINT LOUIS

 

Christmas from Saint Louis is part of a series of seasonal CDs issued by the British label, Regent Records, one of the most respected 'niche' labels for choral music. This is the third collaboration between Regent Records and the SLCC. The new collection is a blend of the familiar with brand new carols written expressly for the Chamber Chorus; interspersed among these are Scenes from the Holy Nativity by Missouri-born composer, Virgil Thomson. Well known American carols, such as Away In A Manger and O Little Town Of Bethlehem, are sung to their original American tunes, while traditional texts, like The Lord At First Did Adam Make and Ye Sons Of Men, receive new and accessible treatments. Words by Martin Luther inspire several composers on this disc, while literary detective work traces an American poet, through German and Russia (with Tchaikovsky), and back to the USA (with Gubanov). The disc, recorded at Our Lady of Sorrows Church in St. Louis, is accompanied by a detailed booklet that includes all the texts and translations, as well as an informative essay by Artistic Director, Philip Barnes.

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Release date: December 18, 2011

 

Cover image: Gateway Arch – Snow No. 1, ©2011 Reggie Victor​

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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.

 

 

1. Joseph and the Angel (Scenes from The Holy Infancy I) — Virgil Thomson 

 

2. It Came Upon the Midnight Clear — Richard Storrs Willis 

 

3. Ye Sons of Men — Patrick Zuk

 

4. If Ye Would Hear the Angels Sing — Martha Shaffer

 

5. The Lord at First Did Adam Make — Philip Barnes

 

6. O Little Town of Bethlehem — Lewis Redner

 

7. Susannine — Clare Maclean

 

8. O My Deir Hert — Virgil Thomson

 

9. Away in a Manger — James Murray

 

10. The Crown of Roses — Peter Tchaikovsky

 

11. The Garden of Roses — Yakov Gubanov

 

Two Tree Carols — Sasha Johnson Manning

 

      12. The Tree of Life

 

      13. Christbaum

 

14. The Wise Men (Scenes from The Holy Infancy II) — Virgil Thomson

 

15. Hostis Herodes — Guillaume Dufay, arr. Martha Shaffer

 

16. We Three Kings — John Henry Hopkins, Jr.

 

17. The Flight into Egypt (Scenes from The Holy Infancy III) — Virgil Thomson

 

18. From Heaven Above to Earth I Come — David Bednall 

CD Reviews

Gramophone Magazine (December 2011)

Pick of this year's Christmas albums, From Cambridge to St. Louis: carols from across the globe (front cover), O little town of Americana (inside article) Still in America, I was much taken by the Saint Louis Chamber Chorus under their British-born director Philip Barnes, and their Christmas from Saint Louis album. Barnes has led the choir since 1989—and it shows. If not all his verse soloists have first-class voices, the confidence, verve and sensitivity with which this 50-strong a cappella chorus sing is impressive. The order of the 18 carols follows the nativity story beginning approximately with the first of Virgil Thomson's three striking, operatic Scenes from the Holy Infancy. Barnes's own The Lord at first did Adam make is sure to be taken up by many choirs. This generous (79'35") programme, atmospherically recorded, will also remind UK readers that much as we may like to think that It came upon a midnight clear, Away in a manger, O little town of Bethlehem and We three kings are all traditional English carols, they are entirely American in origin—and the Saint Louis Chorus sings the texts to their original tunes.

 

St. Louis Post-Dispatch

New holiday choral music CDs have mix of traditional, new. Christmas is about both the traditional and about the new, the familiar and the foreign—and so are a batch of fine new compact discs, recently released in time for the holidays. More than any other holiday, Christmas is about choral music, and most of these discs reflect that. A new recording from the St. Louis Chamber Chorus is always notable; this Christmas recording is special indeed. "Christmas from Saint Louis" (Regent Records REGCD373) combines the old and new: five carols commissioned by the SLCC, one by artistic director Philip Barnes, four traditional American carols, along with "Scenes from the Holy Infancy," by Kansas City-born Virgil Thomson, and music by Peter Tchaikovsky and others. The region's finest a cappella choir sings it all with vocal beauty, thoughtful delivery and a nicely blended ensemble, along with some outstanding solo work, on a well-engineered CD. [Sarah Bryan Miller, Post-Dispatch Classical Music Critic]

 

International Record Review (December 2011)

'Christmas from Saint Louis' contains a rich array of a cappella rarities and ghosts of Christmas present in the form of new commissions. It's interesting (if disconcerting) to hear different (American) versions of It came upon the midnight clear, O little town of Bethlehem, and Away in a manger, and gratifying to have four items composed by Virgil Thomson, three of them his Scenes from the Holy Infancy, more operatic recitative and choral response than carol, which appear through the disc. What I liked about this collection is that the programme is not a randomly sequenced collection but intelligently tells the Christmas story. The Saint Louis Chamber Chorus is on top form with excellent diction, conducted by Philip Barnes, who also contributes a carol. Tchaikovsky's The crown of roses makes a welcome appearance, followed by Yakov Gubanov's The Garden of Roses, one of seven works composed especially for the choir. Sasha Johnson Manning's Two Tree Carols are similarly fine, as is David Bednall's From heaven above to earth I come which concludes the disc.

© 2020

The Saint Louis Chamber Chorus

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