2008 Press Archives

Music Review of the 2007 CD

From ClassicsToday.com, November 2008

David Vernier

There's certainly no shortage of worthy causes vying for our attention during the holiday season, but here's one that's sure to satisfy fans of Christmas choral music, whose purchase of the CD also will benefit the children of sub-Saharan Africa through the United Nations' World Food Program. The CD gathers together performances of Christmas music by various choral groups based in Princeton, New Jersey — which happens to boast one of the continent's more impressive lineups, from the renowned Westminster Choir and American Boychoir to the Princeton Girlchoir, Princeton High School Choir, and Princeton University Chapel Choir. The 20 selections are not from a single concert but were contributed/donated by the various ensembles and are drawn primarily from concert performances from different places and dates, all from the past 10 years. (There's even a performance — "Let it Snow!" — from the Princeton Girlchoir's appearance on the NBC-TV Today Show in 2002.)

Naturally, there are substantial differences in sound quality and ambience from track to track, and likewise the polish and technical refinement of the performances varies, but with a couple of exceptions the results range from perfectly acceptable to very good. And it's wonderful to hear on one disc such variety of repertoire and types of ensembles, from the younger voices of the American Boychoir and high school groups to the college choirs of Princeton and Westminster. Most of the pieces are familiar — such favorites as David Willcocks' setting of Ding dong! Merrily on high, Leroy Anderson's Sleigh Ride, Vaughan Williams' Sussex Carol and First Nowell, Darke's In the bleak midwinter, Rutter's Nativity Carol, Britten's A New Year Carol, and the aforementioned Let it Snow!; but I would list several others as highlights.

These include the Princeton Girlchoir's rendition of Rutter's setting of Personent Hodie, the Princeton Day School Choir Madrigal Singers in Alice Parker's Hark, I hear the harps eternal, and best of all, the Westminster Choir's gorgeous performance of Ralph Johnson's beautiful Christmas hymn The hills are bare at Bethlehem (a setting of the early-American tune "Prospect" that demands several immediate repeats!). Frank Ferko's excellent Adam Lay Ybounden receives a fine rendition by the Princeton University Chapel Choir, as does Daniel Kantor's Night of silence by the Tartantones of Stuart Country Day School of the Sacred Heart. The program concludes not with voices but with bells — a very impressive virtuoso performance of William Griffin's arrangement of Tchaikovsky's "March" from the Nutcracker by the Westminster Concert Bell Choir.

This CD was issued in 2007 and a second volume has just been released this year. Both are available as CDs or via download through the project's website — princetonchristmas.org — or at Amazon.com. All proceeds from your purchase will go directly to feed children — the most appreciated $20 gift you'll give this year.

For more information, visit Friends of the World Food Program (http:/ www.friendsofwfp.org), a non-profit organization dedicated to building support for the WFP (http://www.wfp.org).

Tom Meagher (A Princeton Christmas) / 908-907-3377
Maria Reppas / mreppas@friendsofwfp.org / 202- 530-1694 x 111

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