Born is the latest album from Philadelphia based choir The Crossing conducted by Donald Nally. There are three pieces on the album. Two works by Michael Gilbertson book end the line up. The first, Born, sets words by Wisława Szymborska translated by Stanislaw Baranczak and Clare Cavanagh. It deals in a very allusive way with the relationship between a man and his mother. The music is intricate but still sounds a bit “church choiry” for my taste. There’s nothing wrong with it. It’s well crafted and beautifully performed but not really my thing.
The piece that closes out the performance is a setting of text by Kai Hoffman-Krull. This is how the poet describes it:
Returning explores the story of David and Jonathan from the Hebrew Bible in the form of an unspoken conversation between them. Jonathan’s words to David are spoken internally as he prepares to fight the Philistines at Mt. Gilboa. David’s words are spoken to Jonathan’s memory after his passing at the battle. A third, omniscient voice reflects on the nature of love.
It’s quite interesting with David voiced by the low voices and Jonathan by the high ones. It’s elegant and, like the earlier piece, quite restrained.
The middle part of the disk is a piece by Edie Hill called Spectral Spirits. It’s a sort of lament or elegy for four extinct American birds; the passenger pigeon, the Carolina parakeet, the Eskimo curlew and the ivory-billed woodpecker. Each bird gets three sections; an eyewitness account, a list of its names in English and Latin and a poem by Holly J. Hughes. The music is witty, clever and very sad and fits the text beautifully. The text is lyrical; evoking the beauties of each bird, its special qualities and the manner of its destruction. Humans suck! I really liked this piece though it made me very sad. It’s beautiful and a fitting tribute to something precious we have lost.
The recording was made in August 2021 at St. Peter’s Church in the Great Valley, Malvern PA. It’s extremely clear and atmospheric. It’s available as a physical CD, in various digital formats and on the usual streaming services. I listened to 96kHz, 24 bit WAV files. As always with Navona there’s very full documentation available on-line.
Catalogue number: Navona NV6449