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Missa Campanella
Choir of the Cathedral of St. John, Episcopal, Albuquerque, Maxine Thévenot, director; Stephen Tharp, guest organist
Great Reviews! - [OAR-926]
$15.98

Reviews James Hildreth in The American Organist, November 2015:
The music is beautifully sung by the Cathedral's three choirs . . .  Full review below, as well as fine reviews in three other journals, below:


The Choir of the Cathedral of St. John, Albuquerque, New Mexico, Maxine Thévenot, director; Stephen Tharp, guest organist, performs recent liturgical music, some recorded the first time. Three compositions for solo organ are included as well.
Andrew Ager: Missa Campanella
Richard Shephard: Christ, Whose Glory Fills the Skies
Peter Hallock: Thy Word is a Lantern
Ned Rorem: Mercy and Truth Are Met
Mark Blatchly: Give Us the Wings of Faith
Barry Rose: Morning Glory, Starlit Sky
Michael Sitton: Tantum Ergo
June Nixon: O Salutaris Hostia
Geraint Lewis: The Souls of the Righteous
Mary Lynn Place Badarak: Ave Verum Corpus
Derek Holman: Prevent Us, O Lord
Maurice Duruflé: In Paradisum (from Requiem)
Eleanor Daley: Missa Brevis No. 4
SOLO ORGAN:
Andrew Ager: Prélude et Fugue, Op. 30
Fredrik Sixten: Toccata Festival
Jean-Yves Daniel-LeSur: In Paradisum

Writes James Hildreth in The American Organist:
This lovely recording features sacred music by 20th- and 21st-century composers from Canada, the United States, the United Kingdom, Australia, and France. The repertoire is suitable for liturgical use, primarily centering on the themes of death, resurrection, and eternal life. World-premiere recordings include Canadian organist-composer Andrew Ager's four-movement Missa Campanella, Australian organist-composer June Nixon's O Salutaris Hostia, and the Ave Verum Corpus of Albuquerque resident Mary Lynn Place Badarak. These works provide fresh, attractive settings of familiar liturgical texts. Other composers include Richard Shephard {Christ, Whose Glory Fills the Skies), Peter Hallock (Thy Word Is a Lantern), Ned Rorem (Mercy and Truth Are Met), Mark Blatchly (Give Us the Wings of Faith), Barry Rose (Morning Glory, Starlit Sky), Michael Sitton (Tantum Ergo), Geraint Lewis (The Souls of the Righteous), Derek Holman (Prevent Us, O Lord), Maurice Duruflé (In Paradisum from Requiem), and Eleanor Daley (the four-movement Missa Brevis No. 4). The repertoire, spanning more than 50 years, represents some of the finest composers of the present generation in addition to those of previous generations.
The music is beautifully sung by the Cathedral's three choirs individually and in combination. The Cathedral Choir consists of 37 voices, from which are drawn the 16-voice Cathedral Chamber Choir. Twenty young singers constitute the Cathedral Choristers. Each choir is well trained, demonstrating a high level of discipline
through excellent intonation, blend, balance, phrasing, and stylistic sensitivity. Stephen Tharp, recognized as one of the world's premier virtuoso organists, here assumes the role of collaborator, which he does brilliantly. He harnesses the resources of the large Reuter to perfectly match and support the choirs at every dynamic level.
In addition, he performs the enchanting In Paradisum by Daniel-Lesur, imparting an aura of mysticism and seraphic peace. Maxine Thevenot assumes a dual role as both a superb choir trainer and as an exciting organ virtuoso, as she performs Andrew Ager's Prelude et Fugue, Op. 30 (world premiere recording) and Swedish composer Fredrik Sixten's Toccata Festival. Ager's arresting Prelude is infused with highly charged rhythm, while the more solemn fugue is spun upon a stately theme characterized by large intervals and a slow dotted
rhythm. Sixten's engaging Toccata combines elements of neo-Classicism with jazz. Thevenot exhibits complete technical and musical command, rendering these works with joyful panache.
   The music program of the Cathedral of St. John in Albuquerque, under Thevenot's direction, is exemplary. The singers are to be commended for their commitment, clearly evident in this recording.

Reviews Richard Popple in Organists' Review

I am sure all readers will know that Albuquerque is the capital of New Mexico in the USA[sic].They may not be quite so sure about the Cathedral Church of St John with its magnificent four-manual [sic] Reuter organ of 2002 with over 100 speaking stops, its two choirs and Dr Maxine Thévenot, Director of Cathedral Music and Organist. This CD gives an introduction to all these: the cathedral with its bright, clear acoustic, the cathedral choir, the cathedral choristers and the cathedral chamber choir, used in various combinations, Dr Thévenot playing the organ solos and Stephen Tharp accompanying the singing. The eclectic programme is most enjoyable, with contributions from the UK, Australia, Sweden, France, the USA and Dr Thévenot’s native Canada. The music is all of the twentieth century but has been chosen to be approachable, with particular emphasis on the marriage of words and music. Space precludes comment on every piece. Suffice it to say that the quality of singing is very good: the choristers are boys and girls and the chamber choir is an adult group, joining together in the Daley Missa brevis and Ned Rorem’s Mercy and truth. The Missa is very brevis, with no Gloria and lasting only five minutes but it is a very effective setting for unaccompanied voices.The organ solos are excellent, showing the colours of this splendid instrument and the recording does full justice to the performers and the building.There is a helpful booklet, giving full details of the music, the performers and the organ. I thoroughly enjoyed the whole CD and commend it to you.

 
Reviews Jonathan Dimmock in The Journal of the Association of Anglican Musicians

A new disc, with many premiere recordings, has come from the three choirs of St. John’s Cathedral, Albuquerque, under the very fine direction of Maxine Thévenot. The Cathedral Choir, the Cathedral Choristers, and the Cathedral Chamber Choir alternate performances, or sing together, in a disc with several Canadian composers represented. Beautifully recorded by Peter Nothnagle (although with no information as to when or where), we hear a perfect balance of voices on this recording. The microphone placement allows for the full breadth of the enormous Reuter organ (Op. 2210, 2002) to complement a warm sound from the choir. Both Stephen Tharp and Maxine Thévenot have a "go" at the organ on this disc, three solo pieces and many accompanied anthems. The accompaniments are sensational—sensitive, supportive, and playful.

The disc takes its name from a Mass setting by the Canadian composer, Andrew Ager. The opening piece on the disc, Ager’s Prélude et Fugue, Op. 30, has a challenging and exciting Prelude, followed by a mediocre fugue subject —which he works out as best as can be expected with the material. However, his mass setting, which follows, is truly quite lovely. It comes across like a concerto for sopranos, as he rest of the choir makes the occasional token entry, and what he does with the accompaniment and soprano part is great. If you’ve got a phenomenal soprano section to show off, this is the piece for you.

There is another Mass setting on the disc by Eleanor Daley Missa Brevis No. 4), which I found to be pleasant. (Not all music has to be profound.) A great assortment of composers add to the motets found on the CD: Richard Shephard, Peter Hallock (his simple gem, Thy Word is a Lantern, is sung with serenity and depth), Ned Rorem, Mark Blatchly, Barry Rose, Michael Sitton, June Nixon, Geraint Lewis, Mary Lynn Place Badarak, Derek Holman, Jean-Yves Daniel-LeSur, and Maurice Duruflé! For me, the weightiest and most profound moment on the disc was The Souls of the Righteous by Geraint Lewis. At more than seven and a half minutes, it’s not for the faint of heart, but well worth adding to the repertoire. Powerful.

Maxine has done an amazing things with these choirs. The adults have a beautiful blend, shaping their phrases with a finesse that is a joy to hear. The choristers make a lovely sound, rich in enthusiasm, warm in tone, and with a contagious energy to their performances. It’s all well and good to say that a choir sounds lovely—when they’re in a major choral metropolis like New York, Minneapolis, or San Francisco. But it’s a far different thing to say that a choir in Albuquerque sounds beautiful. That is no small achievement and definitely to be lauded.

 
Reviews Jean-Yves Duperron in Classical Music Sentinel

A few seconds into this CD and you quickly realize that you're in for an entertaining hour. It opens with a vibrant and technically challenging organ work by Ottawa-born Canadian composer Andrew Ager (1962-), which along with his Missa Campanella that follows, are presented here as world premiere recordings. This Prélude et Fugue, Op. 30 is performed with plenty of character by Canadian-born organist Maxine Thévenot who is now the director of music at the Cathedral of St. John, Albuquerque, New Mexico, where this recording takes place. The impressive organ on which she, and guest organist Stephen Tharp play, is an Op. 2210 Reuter Organ built in 2002. It boasts 3800 pipes and a varied range of over 102 stops, 4 of which are 32' stops including an Ophecleide. It's the largest pipe organ in New Mexico. The title piece of this CD, the Missa Campanella, opens in an almost Gregorian style within the Kyrie, but quickly reveals its present day roots in the Gloria that follows, especially with its use of distant harmonics in the organ part. The Sanctus is adorned with a beautiful and uplifting melody in the choral writing, all performed with spirit by the Cathedral Choir.

Another first recording, is the organ work Toccata Festival by Swedish composer Fredrik Sixten (1962-), which masterfully blends melodic invention and fluidity with modern extremes. The anthem Thy Word is a Lantern by American Peter Hallock (1924-) may be short, but it is so well conceived and harmonically polished at the end, that it leaves an impression. Frequently recorded and performed, composer Ned Rorem's Mercy and Truth Are Met is yet another fine example of a simple and yet beautiful melody masterfully combined with harmonic invention and clever voicing.

The a cappella piece by Barry Rose, here performed by the Cathedral Chamber Choir and the Cathedral Choristers, is evidence of this composer's extensive experience in choral writing and directing. It flows along with an ease that clearly demonstrates that sometimes you don't need to overdo things to get your message across. The inspired The Souls of the Righteous by Geraint Lewis (1958-), with its steadfast heavenly gaze and devout delivery, is the kind of choral work you wish would go on forever. The ending alone, with its delayed harmonic resolution, both simple and sublime, is of the goosebump variety. Stephen Tharp's subdued organ accompaniment on this one is extremely well done. Those soft and sustained pedal notes provide the desired effect.

Whereas Maurice Duruflé needs no elucidation on my part, French composer Jean-Yves Daniel-Lesur, sometimes written down as Daniel-Jean-Yves Lesur (1908-2002) certainly does. Among his friends and influences are many composers whose works were infused with a combination of spiritual, philosophical and metaphysical subject matter, such as Messiaen, Tournemire and Jolivet. This organ piece titled In Paradisum, certainly fits that profile with its open harmonies and modalities reminiscent of the Middle Ages, and deep sense that the message lives within the music itself. The complete opposite, musically speaking, to the opening work by Ager. The program concludes with a short Mass by another Canadian composer, Eleanor Daley, whose output is mostly comprised of choral music. This is another fine a cappella setting, again very well sung by the Cathedral Chamber Choir.

If you admire choral music, or organ music for that matter, and are always looking for something new to add to your collection, this recording is a must. It is a fine overview of recent works, some even recorded for the first time, but works that are firmly rooted in tradition, and that speak directly to the heart. The people at Raven, should be applauded for having the conviction and devotion to keep recording music like this, for all to enjoy on this musical planet.

<font color = purple>Missa Campanella</font><BR>Choir of the Cathedral of St. John, Episcopal, Albuquerque, Maxine Thévenot, director; Stephen Tharp, guest organist<BR><Font color=red><B><I>Great Reviews!</B></I></font>
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