As an encore to its popular Serenata
album (N/S R 1024), the Americas Vocal Ensemble presents an anthology celebrating the marvelously diverse choral music from the New World.
Recorded live at Christ Chapel of The Riverside Church in New York City, the album features a wide variety of styles, from captivating music of the colonial era to stimulating works by living composers.
Damon Lee's La exclamacion (The Exclamation) was awarded first prize in the 1999 Americas Vocal Ensemble composition contest. Inspired by a succinct poem penned by Octavio Paz, the Nobel Laureate Mexican writer, Lee's setting compellingly captures the playfulness of Paz's text. Lee aimed to create a musical context that would challenge the listener to perceive the poem as ephemeral as in Paz's vision and to hear the piece as a single, magnified moment, frozen in time. While in real life a hummingbird's wings move too quickly, the music creates the illusion of the hummingbird's wings, stillness and timelessness. A native of Michigan, Lee studied at the Eastman School of Music and Cornell University. He was recently honored with a fellowship from the Deutscher Akademischer Austausch-dienst for work in Dresden, Germany.
Carlos Guastavino's numerous choral settings have earned a place of honor in the repertoire favored by performers of Latin American vocal music. His style faithfully reflects the rhythms, melodies and harmonies found in the folk music of his beloved Argentina. Gala del dia (Day's Splendor), Chanarcito (Little Chanar Tree), Viento Norte (Northern Wind) and Una de dos (One of Two) belong to the collection Indianas, an extended song cycle for vocal quartet and piano. Arroz con leche (Rice Pudding) is a skillfully arranged nursery rhyme. Guastavino puts his immense craft on display by generating a complex four-part canon based on this charming melody, a tune that happens to be extremely popular throughout Latin America.
Gunhild Glass was born in Panama but grew up in Vienna, Austria where she began music studies at an early age. After graduating from Oberlin, Glass returned to Vienna to study Baroque music under Gustav Leonhardt's direction. Currently living in New York City, Glass has pursued her compositional activities while serving as music director for several theater companies. Written especially for the Americas Vocal Ensemble, The Three Songs on Texts by Garcia Lorca are sensitive a cappella renderings of the legendary Spanish writer's poignant love poetry. On the other hand, El Sapo (The Toad) is a witty arrangement of a folk song from Honduras in which the vocalists cheerfully suggest the chirps and growls of a happy toad.
Berimbau is the name of a Brazilian folk instrument that strongly resembles a bow. African in origin, the Berimbau is widely used in the northern territories of Brazil, especially in performances of music accompanying Capoeria dances. This delightful arrangement uses the potent syncopations of Afro-Brazilian rhythms. Also African derived, are the rhythms and images associated with Hector Stamponi's Azabache. Candomble is a syncretic religion mixing Christian and African beliefs quite widespread throughout South America.
Alberto Favero is a well-known Argentinean composer of popular music. Te Quiero (I Love You) is a heart-felt rendering of a love poem by the Uruguayan master Mario Benedetti. Hailing also from Argentina, Eladia Blazquez celebrates the "Paris of South America" as Buenos Aires is affectionately referred to by the portenos those who were born and reside in that wonderful city. Eduardo Grau and Ruben Urbiztondo are two 20th century Argentinean composers whose first-rate choral music deserves to be better known outside their native country.
Hanacpachap is a brief four-part setting of an anonymous Quechua text composed in the 16th century by a Spanish friar living in Peru. As with most Inca poetry, the text deals with the harvesting of the land. Published in Spain during the 17th century, this is one of the first polyphonic settings hailing from the New World to reach Europe. Following the military conquest, Spanish priests discovered that music was the ideal vehicle to reach and convert native populations. Priests regularly employed texts in native languages and set them in accordance with the norms of Renaissance polyphony. Ay, Galeguinos is a villancico (Christmas Carol) written by a homesick Galician from Western Spain who had risked everything in his quest for fame and fortune in the New World.
Writer and composer Yvette Souviron was born in Buenos Aires to French-Basque parents. After graduating from the National Conservatory in her native city, she appeared as pianist throughout South and Central America. After settling in New York, Ms. Souviron redirected her efforts to the worlds of musical theater and film. Carnavalito (Little Carnival) uses poetry that celebrates the colorful fiestas of the Aymara people of Bolivia. The text weaves Spanish and Aymara words in alluring ways.
Owen Goldsmith's The Tender Affliction received third prize in the 1999 Americas Vocal Ensemble's composition contest. Described by the composer as "three love songs going from Adoration to Departing to Haunting," this heartfelt work is scored for vocal quartet and piano. The first movement employs poetry by Lord Herbert of Cherbury (1583-1648). The second movement uses poetry by Michael Drayton (1563-1631) and the third is based on poetry written by the composer. A Texas native, Goldsmith has resided in Calaveras County, California since 1981. Active as a teacher, conductor and administrator, Goldsmith's compositions appear in the catalogues of prestigious publishers including G. Schirmer, Boosey & Hawks and Theodore Presser, Inc.
Astor Piazzolla (1924-1992) has emerged as one of the most significant composers of the late 20th century. A leading member of the Nuevo Tango ("New Tango") movement, Piazzolla's music has gained acceptance throughout the world and is becoming a regular staple of the concert music repertoire. Adios Nonino (Goodbye Nonino) was originally conceived as a purely instrumental composition. In the version of this popular tune being heard on this album, the voices function as instrumental lines singing phonemes instead of a text. By contrast, the Balada para un loco (Ballad for a Crazy Man) is an exciting melange of music and poetry which uses the image of a crazy man as a metaphor signifying creativity and freedom of expression.
Extensive liner notes accompany the recording.