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Carols for Quire from the Old & New World Volume 2.


Quire Cleveland



Elaine Funaro, Harpsichord


Carols for Quire is a live recording of two Christmas concerts t Trinity Cathedral in Cleveland, Ohio in December 20102011. Quire Cleveland was founded in 2008 and sings five centuries of a capella repertoire from the Mediaeval to Modern, with twenty-four voices. Seven pieces on the CD are arranged by Ross W. Duff]n, the founder and artistic director. His two published books, How Equal Temperament Ruined Harmony (and Why You Should Care) and Shakespeare's Songbook, have gained international renown. As director of the CWRU Historical Performance Program since 1978 and radio show host of Micrologus: Exploring the World of Early Music broadcasted on 140 US National Public Radio stations, Duff]n has promoted the early music field to music lovers all over the country.

The choir sings with excellent enunciation, and their voices are beautiful indeed. The venue is a cathedral, which gives the sound a wonderful ambiance. Quire sings with great heart and power. One of many stand-out pieces on the recording is a soul-rending version of the mediaeval masterpiece Verbum caro factum est taken from Pia cantionnes, which is monophonic in the original manuscript. Duff]n has harmonized it using period contrapuntal techniques to great effect.

This would be a lovely disc to give to people who have no knowledge of Christmas music before the 20th century standard versions of carols, giving them access to a rich mosaic of music back through history to the thirteenth century. For the early repertoire especially it is a brilliant exploration. The programming proceeds from the ancient to our own day with Gustav Holst's In the bleak midwinter and a world premiere of Quiet Promise by modern American composer Jennifer Conner (b. 1962). Christmas is a time of great family traditions and generational celebration, and this disc focuses on mankinds continued Hosanna to the Christ Child and his Mother Mary over the course of nine hundred years.

Funaro is a facile virtuoso whose hands turn easily from technical brilliance to lyricism, humour and pure emotion bringing the harpsichord to life. Her eclectic approach to the vibrancy of the repertoire and sound possibilities of the instrument prove the relevancy and viability of the harpsichord in our own day, past any considerations of ancient music. A major interest in her art is modern works for the harpsichord, which she weaves seamlessly into this CD's programming. Very often modern commissions for the harpsichord are strident and jarring or best taken as unique compositional forays, set as novelties in concert programming or on their own as part of "new music" presentations. Funaro has premiered new harpsichord pieces on five continents.

The full-bodied sound of the Richard Kingston double manual harpsichord is mirrored in the exuberant post-modern painting on the instrument case by artist Lisa Creed, a wild and whimsical avant-garde extravaganza of colors, shapes, and energy.

The set starts off with three traditional French masterpieces, two by Jean-Francois Dandrieu followed by a Claude Balbastre gem entitled Quand Jesu naquit d Noel, then a fine series of eleven carols arranged by Edwin McLean (2003), using baroque idioms and effects. This part of the disc proves that the harpsichord is a facile instrument capable of providing a seasonal sound environment. Next are three Sonatinos (n.d.) from the pen of Stephen Yates and another three traditional carols from Dandrieu and Daquin. The final section of the recording (six works) provides a feast of lush keyboard carols from the pen of Jackson Berkey (1997-1998). These are masterpieces that compare with the three old masters and continue the French eighteenth-century tradition for organists to improvise on old and favorite Christmas carols before midnight Mass on Christmas Eve. Berkey utilizes the entire range of the instrument, creating a dense canvas that is engaging for the listener as it is technically demanding on the executant. Funaro shines in this section, duplicating the lightness, joy, and festive aspect of Christmastide. This recording is for anyone who would never consider the sound of the harpsichord as having a place in the Christmas season. It was the sound of European Christmases for almost four hundred years. Funaro deftly brings this history of the domestic setting back into focus with a brilliance that amazes supplying a niche that choirs, hymns, bells, and singing lacks: the intimate soundscape of a musical environment meant to enhance and edify while also being kept in the background of the family and their busy social seasonal setting. This is a brilliant CD that surprises the listener and is filled with life and love.

These contemporary composers have been past winners in the Alienor Harpsichord Composition. Alienor Records was started in 1980 under the aegis of the Southeastern Historical Keyboard Society. They run a quadrennial competition for new harpsichord music, publish winning commissions and compositions, and initiate new works for the instrument. There have been eight competitions to date, with over 500 new scores submitted by composers from across the globe. Funaro is obviously a major artist in the international re-integration of the instrument back into the mainstream modern classical music world. Her commitment, passion, and energy are palpable; this CD is a real Christmas gift.
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Title Annotation:Harpsichord at the Holidays: Christmas Carols Past and Present
Author:Dwyer, Paul-James
Publication:Catholic Insight
Article Type:Sound recording review
Date:Dec 1, 2013
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