The Tower and the Garden

The Crossing must be one of North America’s most interesting and accomplished choirs.  They specialise in difficult contemporary music that is a million miles away from most of the new music that is being composed for the (lucrative) amateur choir market.  Their latest CD; The Tower and the Garden, is due for release on the Navona label on February 12th.  I really like it.

There are three pieces on the disk.  The first is an a cappella setting of Walt Whitman’s A Child Said, What is the Grass? by Tolvo Tuley.  It’s worth reading the text in advance because this piece builds up in layers like renaissance polyphony or, perhaps more aptly, a piece by John Tavener.  There are certainly echoes of the Greek Orthodox tradition here but only echoes.  What really strikes is that the tension that keeps building and really doesn’t resolve.  It’s as uncomfortable and enigmatic as Whitman’s answer to the child’s question; “the beautiful uncut hair of graves”. Throughout the choir display an astonishing control of textures and dynamics.

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Carthage

nv6287---the-crossing---carthage---front-cover-fullI’m never quite sure that unaccompanied choral music is quite my thing but The Crossing’s new recording of music by James Primosch caught my eye.  It was the idea of the title track; Carthage, on prose by Marilynne Robinson from her novel Housekeeping, which employs the devastated city of Carthage as a metaphor for desire and imagination that drew me in.   The image of once-fertile fields, salted and wasted, has haunted my imagination for decades and I wanted to see how it might play out in musical terms.  I wasn’t disappointed.

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