SAINT LOUIS PREMIERES
The seventh release on the British label Regent Records, St. Louis Premieres features entirely new works written specially for the Chamber Chorus; they receive their first commercial recording here. Selections celebrate the love of friends, family and spouses, some hail the salutary effect of a good pint of ale, while others evoke spirited dances. Characteristic of this choir, you will find selections by both male and female composers. Among the latter are poignant songs by Sasha Johnson Manning and Clare Maclean, while Melissa Dunphy examines the intersection of mortality and movement in Suite Remembrance. Such a contrast is never far from the voyage home of Odysseus, whose joyous reunion with Penelope is recounted in Ceaselessly Weaving Her Name by British composer Judith Bingham. Also hailing from Great Britain are Jonathan Dove and Gabriel Jackson, who manipulate double choir effects brilliantly in The Kerry Christmas Carol and Felices Ter. Similarly, a glorious paean to friendship is offered by the Latvian master, Eriks Esenvalds, who sets a memorable text by Khalil Gibran. Local composers are not overlooked either, with eloquent arrangements provided by Jon Garrett and Orin Johnson, both of whom clearly understand the distinctive timbre of this remarkable chamber choir.
A short film that documented the making of this 2019 recording was filmed by Dancing Fox Productions and may be viewed here.
Release date: May 2020
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. Felices ter et amplius — Gabriel Jackson (b. 1962)
2. Ceaselessly weaving your name — Judith Bingham (b. 1952)
3. That I did always love — Clare Maclean (b. 1958)
4. On friendship — Eriks Esenvalds (b. 1977)
5. Drink to me only with thine eyes — arr. Jon Garrett (b. 1969)
The Ale Songbook — Robert Walker (b. 1946)
6. In Praise of Ale
7. Fill with mingled cream and amber
8. Gude Ale
9. Now do I hear thee weep and groan
10. Will ye quaff with me?
11. It is not for kings, Lemuel — Sasha Johnson Manning (b. 1963)
12. Maker of all things — arr. Orin Johnson (b. 1973)
13. In the bleak midwinter — Eriks Esenvalds (b. 1977)
14. The Kerry Christmas Carol — Jonathan Dove (b. 1959)
Suite Remembrance — Melissa Dunphy (b. 1980)
16. All flesh is grass
17. If I can stop one heart from breaking
18. Mourning into dancing
All tracks are World premiere recordings
Classical Music Sentinel (May 2020)
This is the seventh recording by Regent Records featuring the Saint Louis Chamber Chorus, a choir that is one of the largest commissioners of new choral music in the world. This latest recording brings together eleven new commissions, covering a wide range of composers and styles. In my opinion, the two selections by the Latvian composer Ēriks Ešenvalds alone are worth the price of admission. A choral composer whose style is fresh and up to date, and yet seems to span centuries of tradition. For example, his version of In the bleak midwinter is just as beautiful and harmonically rich as the original version by Gustav Holst. And his On friendship is a highly touching tribute to a former member of the choir. In fact all of the songs on this CD make for fine additions to the choral music catalogue, and all showcase this choir's rich blend, dynamic range and ability to innovate, all captured in a realistically ambient audio recording. –Jean-Yves Duperron
The American Organist (2020)
Praise continues to arrive for our latest CD, St. Louis Premieres. The American Organist hails the new release as “impressive, beautiful, and yes, courageous” for its advocacy of new music, the selected works are “imaginative, finely honed, and engaging.” The review continues “The choir is magnificent. Their voices are at once rich and full and then bold and compelling. No textual nor textural challenge is beyond them … Intonation and blend are superb.” The reviewer further comments that the chorus “has an enviable record of commissioning new works of both well-established and emerging composers, the current disc composed of eleven such commissions. A particular hallmark of this chorus is its emphasis on the artistry of women composers, four of whom are featured here.” One comment is of particular interest, revealing a perspicacity not often found in reviews: “Casual listening will not yield the pleasure to be derived by focusing upon colorful, compelling texts, set to music by living composers, and performances that are both commanding and tender.” Clearly, this is a compilation to savor again and again! With NO prompting from us (!) the reviewer observes that the SLCC “is one of the USA’s most distinguished choirs, … in addition to providing, through recordings such as this, a rich and stimulating artistic and intellectual experience, the group, by its commissions, gives renewed life to the art of choral music and offers gift after gift of distinguished repertoire to choirs near and far. Vital and vibrant choirs such as this must be treasured and supported, both for their art and also for the enrichment of mind and spirit that they provide.”