Notable Sacred Music for 2011 | Music | Christianity Today.
Those of us who take music seriously (as we should) know how difficult it can be to find quality music in your local Christian bookstore (Which is why I advise you to go to the classical music stores or the “big box” bookstores for sacred music). Sacred choral music is simply not all that popular (read “money-making”) for these stores. With CCM (contemporary Christian music) dominating the market, the truly beautiful music gets buried. But such music is still being produced and can be found! Christianity Today has helped us considerably by giving us its list of the best sacred music for 2011 (Dec.27, 2011). The author is Jane Holstein, an editor with Hope Publishing Company and an arranger, choral clinician, organist, worship planner, and concert artist. Below are two albums that grabbed my attention; you will find the rest at the link above.
If you’ve seen the videos of Eric Whitacre’s Virtual Choir, you’ll quickly get a sense for current American choral literature and the impact it’s having around the world. That may explain the release of this project, in which the Choir of Trinity College explores a cappella music written in England, primarily by living composers. This highly regarded choir demonstrates what the human voice can do with masterful poetic texts and easy-to-listen-to tonal and harmonic structure. A text by H. W. Longfellow is the basis for “The Day Is Done” by Stephen Paulus, perhaps the most-recognized composer on the disc. The album’s title comes from Paulus’s spiritual side, with his setting of “Pilgrims’ Hymn”: “Even with darkness sealing us in, we breathe your name / And through all the days that follow so fast, we trust in you / Endless your grace, beyond all mortal dream.” Newer to the scene is Juilliard graduate Ola Gjeilo, who has become extremely popular with American choirs; he demonstrates his fresh style in the closing selection “Phoenix” (written for the Phoenix Chorale), using the “Agnus Dei” from the Latin Mass. If the range of dynamics tells you anything, expect to hear this prayer for peace build to full intensity and conclude in a hush—a broad spectrum of choral sound.
Coming from one of America’s most preeminent choral institutions, the St. Olaf Choir models a superior sound featuring 75 mixed voices under the well-respected leadership of Anton Armstrong. With this third volume of Great Hymns of Faith, listeners are rewarded with something unique in a playlist of hymnody that will stand the test of time. Using a wide selection of hymns both classic and new, the arrangements give expression to the melodies and texts in a fresh, yet straightforward approach, as in “Rock of Ages,” unaccompanied and performed at a tempo and mood that allows for deeper reflection. The festive “Joyful, Joyful, We Adore Thee,” arranged by St. Olaf’s acclaimed organist, John Ferguson, includes a splendid fanfare for organ and brass which leads into a choral proclamation: “Make a joyful noise to the Lord; come into God’s presence with a song.” The choir showcases its ability to sing with skillful inflections in a handful of global pieces, including a setting of the traditional Cameroon song, “Praise, Praise the Lord!” (known by the tune name (African Processional”).