May 25, 2018

  • Choral Music With Cuban Inflections


    Coro Del Mundo
    Vocal Luna/Maribel Nodarse Valdes
    Schola Cantorum Coraline/Alina Orraca
    Ansonica Records 0008
    Total Time:  66:06
    Recording:   ****/****
    Performance: ****/****

    A couple years ago when the door to Cuba was reopened, Parma partnered with a number of composers and ensembles to celebrate this hopeful shift in the island’s future.  Coro Del Mundo is a collection of choral works that explores a combination of religious and cultural themes in pieces that explore both sacred and secular texts.  The performances were recorded last November featuring Vocal Luna and the Schola Cantorum Coraline.

    The first half of the album features a variety of brief settings of texts that use Cuban rhythms and other Latin American melodic qualities in some exciting folk-like choral pieces.  The collection opens with two works by L. Peter Deutsch.  The Cuban jazz qualities of “Dance to the Revolution” includes handclaps and percussion in an upbeat call for revolution.  “Where Everything Is Music” continues this style for the most part with the addition of soprano saxophone adding a nice lyrical accompaniment against the choral interjections.  Nice shifts of mode are also apparent in this work.  The first half of the album features these blends of Cuban rhythms and declarative text settings.  Using syllables and chant-like interjections, “Canto Del Bongo” by Conrado Monier, is a light folkish work with some nice full choral ideas that add contrast to the call-and-response like setting.  A similar approach follows in Adalberto Alvarez’s “Gozando en la Habana”; “Que Rico E!” by Guido Lopez Gavilan (with some very cool close harmonic writing with extended jazz chords in a mambo and rhythmic vocal sounds) features some really gorgeous lyrical moments; a beautiful setting for female voices continues this folkish style in “Cemento Ladrillo y Arena” by Jose Antonio Mendez (which includes some nasal trumpet solos and quotations); and then two beautifully lyrical pieces first by Electo Rosell (“Murmullo”) and Rafael Hernandez (“Silencio”).

    Two slightly larger works kick off the second half of the program.  Cynthia Folio’s At the Edge of Great Quiet is a four-movement exploration of resilience and nature in poetry by Alaskan women poets.  The first movement has more open harmonic ideas with the second finding the piano creating a weaving texture with the melismatic writing floating above the accompaniment.  Descriptive writing with whispers and choral vocalizations of wind lend an interesting aural soundscape to “On A Day of White Trees” which features eerier piano writing.  The final movement shifts to a more positive tone with polyrhythmic ostinato patterns leading to an exciting conclusion.  The other piece connects a bit to the opening number in its themes that support civil rights in Israel for all Jews.  Sacred Rights, Sacred Song is a multi-movement work incorporating music from a variety of composers.  The three movements here are all by J.A. Kowarsky and focus on the rights of women to pray at the Western Wall (“Woman at the Wall”), the equal rights of Arabs and Jews (“A Sacred Shared Prayer”), and a request to help make change for the better in Israel (“Our Sacred Song”).  The music is more contemporary harmonically with simple accompaniment from the piano and additional percussion adding some transitional flavor.  Two works by Michael Murray begin to shift the tone to more traditional choral settings harmonically with beautiful music (“Caminando” and “El Lunar”).  Blending clarinet with vibraphone and other percussion, Meira Warshauer’s stunning “We Are Dreamers” provides a lyrical meditative work that offers dense Lauridsen-like choral writing and a theme that brings us full circle to the more declamatory opening.

    The first half of the CD settles in nicely to Cuban-inspired musical forms and rhythms in an exciting opening program.  The seriousness of the final works is still mostly accessible tonally with the final piece being the most dramatic and extensive work on the program.  Overall this is an interesting collection of choral pieces worth exploring and considering for college choirs especially.