Fanfare Magazine Review

Washington Master Chorale’s First CD Reviewed in Fanfare Magazine

The Earth and I - CD CoverFanfare Magazine, which is billed as, “The Magazine For Serious Record Collectors,” has published a review of  Washington Master Chorale’s first CD on Albany Records, The Earth and I in their May/June 2014 issue.

The piece was written by London-based reviewer Colin Clarke, manager in the classical department of a record shop at No. 1, Piccadilly, London. Clarke has studied musical theory and analysis at King’s College, London (KQC). He has also worked on the editorial teams of Gramophone and International Record Review, and has acted as a discographer for the MCPS (Mechanical Copyright Protection Society) as well as an expert listener for the Consumer Association.

In his review, Clarke noted that the CD was, “Inspired by engagement with the natural world [and] presents song cycles or individual songs celebrating this most precious of links.” He added, “It is also intended to reflect the blossoming of works for choir in response to the ever-increasing standards in choral singing in the States in the second half of the 20th century…”

Throughout his review, Clarke discusses both the composers and the poetry they used for their writings. He frequently calls out the Chorale’s performance of those pieces.

For example, in referring to the recording of The Sun Went Down, composer Lori Laitman’s first movement in her 2011 composition The Earth and I (commisoned by the Washington Master Chorale), he states that the selection “uses warm, inviting harmonies and is beautifully sculpted by the Washington Master Chorale.”

Mentioning The Wind, the final setting in Laitman’s work, Clarke says that “There is some ecstatic writing (and singing) in this final movement…” and that “The Washington Master Chorale under the direction of Thomas
Colohan responds sensitively to the various techniques employed by Laitman.”

Later in the review, Clarke calls out two excerpts from Stephen Chatman’s Nature Songs, The Voice of the Rain and On the Beach at Night Alone. He calls the first “particularly beautiful,’ and says that “…the Washington Master Chorale is nothing short of radiant.” Of the second, he says, “The chorus sings mainly in rhythmic unison against fragile piano chords, rising to a radiant ending.”

Clarke also called “…the choral sound positively gorgeous” while referring to the Chorale’s performance of selections by Samuel Barber, Kirke Mecham and Rose Lee Finney.

While mentioning Four Pastorales by composer Cecil Effinger (Carol Elfinger sic) Clarke said, “The writing throughout is expert, and the recording is well-nigh perfect, setting the oboe just in the right space so that its
commentaries and comments make maximal impact without over-foregrounding.”

Finally, in reference to composer Donald McCullough’s The Eye Begins to See (also a commission by the Washington Master Chorale, in concert with Words&Music, Inc.), Clarke calls the work “a beautiful metaphor of
Nature as reflecting a journey towards self-realization.” He notes also that piece is “…set in two highly evocative movements which include some frenzied writing, excitingly delivered. The plaintive ruminations of the solo cello in particular add depth to the experience.”

Clarke sums up his review of The Earth and I by calling it “A fascinating disc.”

The full review is available here:

Under the direction of artistic director Thomas Colohan, the Washington Master Chorale’s The Earth and I can be purchased online from Albany Records and is available from Amazon and iTunes.