Monday, April 23, 2007

New Recording by Portland Symphonic Choir

Although I'm not currently singing with the Portland Symphonic Choir, I'm going to go ahead and toot its horn because the PSC has finally released a recording! It's called "Lux Aeterna," and it contains an excellent selection of American choral music. Before I brag any further about this recording I've got to own up to the fact that I'm in it as part of the tenor section. But I'm just one of 120+ singers (in total) who make up the choir, so I think that I can let loose.

In a few words, the recording is quite stunning. It actually sounds as good or better than when I was in the concerts, so I have to take off my hat to the recording engineer Rod Evenson. The recording was done at St. Mary's Cathedral, which is a tricky location because a major avenue runs right alongside the church and Harleys or any other loud vehicle results in a retake.

The CD starts with a premiere of Bryan Johanson's "Lux aeterna," which he wrote in 2005 for the choir. In the piece, the choir and a solo cello, played gorgeously by Hamilton Cheifetz, create an extended duet that evokes a timeless medieval dance. The CD also includes an Alice Parker/Robert Shaw rendition of Psalm 81 that the Pilgrims and many of the settlers who came West on the Oregon Trail would've loved.

Other pieces on the recording are Howard Hanson's "The Cherubic Hymn" (with organist Doug Schneider), Eric Whitacre's "Sleep," Stephen Foster's "Hard Times Come Again No More," Norman Dinerstein's "When David Heard," and William Levi Dawson's "Ezekiel Saw the Wheel." In each piece, the choir maintains a perfect balance among each section, and the diction is outstanding. The sound in "Sleep" is soothing, rich, and soft, and remarkable because it seems to begin in a haze that clarifies and then fades into nowhere. This number is better than any bromide your doctor can prescribe when you're suffering from insomnia. In contrast, if you need an uplifting spark to get your day rolling, you'll want to hear "Ezekiel Saw the Wheel."

Kudos to artistic director and conductor Steven Zopfi and the choir for creating a recording that will be memorable for years to come.

If you want to celebrate the release of this CD and help out the choir, you should attend the PSC's CD Release Party and Auction this Friday evening at the Multnomah Athletic Club. Entertainment includes performances by the Portland Symphonic Girlchoir, The Royal Blues, and the inimitable Rose City Mixed Quartet.

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