SAINT LOUIS COMMISSIONS
The Saint Louis Chamber Chorus has always paid close attention to contemporary repertoire, but under its current Artistic Director Philip Barnes, this interest has metamorphosed into advocacy. The choir regularly presents U.S. and even world premières, and has commissioned an impressive range of composers, male and female, American and foreign. Among its recent commissions are the four works by composers both established and up-and-coming that are heard for the first time on this disc. Released in early 2008 by Regent Records, it is that British label’s first recording of an American ensemble.
Regent’s chief producer Gary Cole flew to St. Louis to supervise the recording sessions, which were engineered by Barry Hufker, one of St. Louis’ preeminent sound engineers. The spacious and clean acoustic of Our Lady of Sorrows Church was the setting for the recording, made over four nights in November 2006.
This is repertoire in a variety of styles but which immediately engages the listener. The works by Ned Rorem and Clare Maclean set Greek authors, reflecting Philip Barnes’ interest in ancient literature; in fact Barnes provided Rorem with a new translation of Sophocles’ Antigone for the commission. Maclean, the Chorus’ current Composer-in-Residence, actually sets Sappho’s original verse, a poem that was subsequently reworked in Latin by Catullus and in French by Ronsard. Maclean’s predecessor, Sasha Johnson Manning, composed over a period of years a full Requiem for unaccompanied voices that sets not only liturgical movements, but also verses by St. John of the Cross, Emily Dickinson, Oscar Wilde, and Walt Whitman. It is a major new work by this young British composer whose career has been gathering pace with numerous commissions from solo performers, ensembles and broadcasters on both sides of the Atlantic. Finally, one of Britain’s most established composers, Judith Bingham, provided an eerie, steely, yet ultimately radiant setting of words by Edmund Spenser, entitled The Shepheardes Calender. Here the full choir is joined by a band of wandering Somerset shepherds—a delightful collaboration!
This disc is accompanied by a booklet containing both texts and translations, together with an informative article by the Chorus’ conductor Philip Barnes. The cover art is supplied by Pele Prints working with a St. Louis artist, Brandon Anschultz. All pieces are scored for unaccompanied SATB choir (with divisi) and receive their first recording on this disc (other than three of Sasha Johnson Manning’s Requiem movements that were previously recorded for earlier discs by the Saint Louis Chamber Chorus).
Release date: December 23, 2007
Cover image: Brandon Anschultz, Pele Prints
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.
Ode to Man — Ned Rorem (b. 1923)*
1. Strophe A
2. Antistrophe A
3. Strophe B
4. Antistrophe B
5. Os Anthos Chortou — Clare Maclean (b. 1958)*
The Shepheardes Calender — Judith Bingham (b. 1952)*
Requiem — Sasha Johnson Manning (b. 1963)*
9. Requiem Aeternam
10. Dies Irae
11. Out of the Deep
12. Let Down The Bars, O Death
13. Sonnet: On hearing the ‘Dies Irae’ in the Sistine Chapel
14. Romança VI and Nunc Dimittis
15. Toward the Unknown Region
16. Lux Aeterna
* World première recording on CD