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Cantus Angelicus Choral Society

Cantus Angelicus - In Concert (1999)

3.4

June 22, 2000

Tuning / Blend 4.2
Energy / Intensity 3.2
Innovation / Creativity 2.4
Soloists 3.4
Sound / Production 3.0
Repeat Listenability 3.0
Tracks
1 Sicut Cervus Desiderat (Palestrina) 3.4
2 Ave Maria (Victoria) 3.4
3 Adoramus Te Christe (DiLasso) 3.4
4 Agnus Dei (DiLasso) 3.6
5 Rejoice in the Lord Alway (Redmond) 2.8
6 Christ Lag in Todesbanden (J.S. Bach) 3.2
7 Ave Maria (Bruckner) 4.0
8 Requiem (Introit & Kyrie) (Fauré) 3.4
9 Gloria (Mass in G) (Schubert) 3.2
10 Ave Verum Corpus (Mozart) 3.2
11 O Magnum Mysterium (Victoria) 3.4
12 Christmas Night (Trad. French) 2.8
13 Lo How a Rose E'er Blooming (Trad. German) 3.4
14 Sussex Carol (Trad. English) 3.2
15 Lullay, Lullay (Coventry Carol) (Trad. English) 4.0
16 Good King Wenceslas (Trad. English) 3.0
17 Cantus (13th Cent. Celtic) 3.4
18 Sweet Little Jesus Boy (MacGimsey) 3.6
19 What Sweeter Music (Rutter) 3.2
20 Et in Terra Pax (from the Gloria) (Vivaldi) 3.4
21 When Christ Was Born on Earth (15th Cent English) 3.4
22 Softly Rest, O Heavenly Child (Michael Haydn) 3.2
23 Lullay, I saw a Swete, Semely Syght (Trad. English) 3.4
24 Magi Viderunt Stellam (Victoria) 3.2
25 Angelum Ad Pastores Ait (Sweelinck) 3.4

Recorded 1997 – 1998
Total time: 73:03, 25 songs


Tuning / Blend 5
Energy / Intensity 4
Innovation / Creativity 3
Soloists 3
Sound / Production 3
Repeat Listenability 4
Tracks
1 Sicut Cervus Desiderat (Palestrina) 4
2 Ave Maria (Victoria) 5
3 Adoramus Te Christe (DiLasso) 5
4 Agnus Dei (DiLasso) 5
5 Rejoice in the Lord Alway (Redmond) 4
6 Christ Lag in Todesbanden (J.S. Bach) 4
7 Ave Maria (Bruckner) 5
8 Requiem (Introit & Kyrie) (Fauré) 5
9 Gloria (Mass in G) (Schubert) 5
10 Ave Verum Corpus (Mozart) 5
11 O Magnum Mysterium (Victoria) 5
12 Christmas Night (Trad. French) 4
13 Lo How a Rose E'er Blooming (Trad. German) 5
14 Sussex Carol (Trad. English) 4
15 Lullay, Lullay (Coventry Carol) (Trad. English) 5
16 Good King Wenceslas (Trad. English) 4
17 Cantus (13th Cent. Celtic) 4
18 Sweet Little Jesus Boy (MacGimsey) 4
19 What Sweeter Music (Rutter) 4
20 Et in Terra Pax (from the Gloria) (Vivaldi) 5
21 When Christ Was Born on Earth (15th Cent English) 4
22 Softly Rest, O Heavenly Child (Michael Haydn) 4
23 Lullay, I saw a Swete, Semely Syght (Trad. English) 5
24 Magi Viderunt Stellam (Victoria) 4
25 Angelum Ad Pastores Ait (Sweelinck) 5

This album by the Cantus Angelicus Choral Society is remarkable. For anyone who used to sing sacred music in their high school choir, they will recognize a great number of songs here. It will be like a time warp, and those people will start to sing along to music they probably have not sung in a number of years... beautiful, graceful music. That is remarkable. But the most remarkable thing about this album is that this series of live recordings is performed by a group of part-time singers.

The members of CA rehearse when they can, after putting in a full day of work. They are not professional singers, and they all come from or live near to Fairfield, Iowa. Fairfield was not on the map of musical hotbeds last time I checked. The group admits all of this in a set of liner notes that reads like a research paper on how to put together a quality group of singers. They talk about the problems of getting a group of singers together and training them. (Other groups should get this album just for the tips on how to do this!) I must say that they have done an admirable job here.

This album is full of great music, from Mozart's Ave Verum Corpus, to Victoria's O Magnum Mysterium, and even the classic Lo How a Rose E're Blooming. How about the Coventry Carol? Or what about the Kyrie from Gabriel Faure's Requiem? These are all great pieces of music, and all are performed quite well by CA. The quality of the recording is good, though not studio perfect... but then again, these are all live recordings, so that is pretty much irrelevant. This is all wonderful sacred music that was written by some of the finest composers of all time. Hearing this music performed so competently by a group of 16 to 18 part-time singers is the kind of thing that makes former singers like me wonder why they are still "former singers".

If you ever sang in a choir or ever sang any of these pieces, you should consider purchasing this album. It is a quality recording of the finest vocal music in history — and by a group that reminds us that music is for the masses, not just for the professionals.


Tuning / Blend 4
Energy / Intensity 2
Innovation / Creativity 1
Soloists 3
Sound / Production 2
Repeat Listenability 2
Tracks
1 Sicut Cervus Desiderat (Palestrina) 3
2 Ave Maria (Victoria) 3
3 Adoramus Te Christe (DiLasso) 3
4 Agnus Dei (DiLasso) 3
5 Rejoice in the Lord Alway (Redmond) 2
6 Christ Lag in Todesbanden (J.S. Bach) 2
7 Ave Maria (Bruckner) 4
8 Requiem (Introit & Kyrie) (Fauré) 2
9 Gloria (Mass in G) (Schubert) 2
10 Ave Verum Corpus (Mozart) 2
11 O Magnum Mysterium (Victoria) 3
12 Christmas Night (Trad. French) 3
13 Lo How a Rose E'er Blooming (Trad. German) 2
14 Sussex Carol (Trad. English) 3
15 Lullay, Lullay (Coventry Carol) (Trad. English) 3
16 Good King Wenceslas (Trad. English) 3
17 Cantus (13th Cent. Celtic) 3
18 Sweet Little Jesus Boy (MacGimsey) 3
19 What Sweeter Music (Rutter) 3
20 Et in Terra Pax (from the Gloria) (Vivaldi) 2
21 When Christ Was Born on Earth (15th Cent English) 4
22 Softly Rest, O Heavenly Child (Michael Haydn) 4
23 Lullay, I saw a Swete, Semely Syght (Trad. English) 3
24 Magi Viderunt Stellam (Victoria) 3
25 Angelum Ad Pastores Ait (Sweelinck) 3

Cantus Angelicus is unusually consistent for a community choir. Intonation, blend and overall musicality vary little from track to track. Cantus' Director, Robert Wendell has done an extraordinary job creating an ensemble dedicated to great works of divine music. Sadly, I find no new directions, new twists, or truly moving interpretations of any of these well-worn classics (and I do mean classics). Still the recording remains relatively enjoyable and pleasant throughout.

Not all of this CD is a cappella and not all of the CD is of the same recording quality. A number of tracks are hissy and several track openings are quite abrupt. Page turnings, occasional shuffling noises, and coughs can be the unfortunate side effect of capturing live performances. Here that is the case.

Those familiar with more contemporary a cappella flavorings may find the bass section considerably lacking in fullness. Bass has taken on a more fundamental role, not only in contemporary music, but in the recording and mastering choices that go into making a professional CD. No longer do audiences accept the fallacy that a mic simply records the room's acoustics. Audiences have heard wonderful live recordings and terrible ones; amplified and acoustic. Every spot in a given room has a different sound. Mic placement in relation to sound source is a defining element of the resulting sound as captured. Different mics record differently. This does not begin to discuss the differences between mic preamps and cabling! These tracks could have been recorded so as maximize the group's sound. Instead, they serve educational purposes more than anything else: the group may listen and learn about their performance.

As an educator, Wendell deserves high praise for his techniques and dedication. As a recording, Cantus Angelicus In Concert is neither ground-breaking nor masterful and as such will probably be best left for ensemble members and their families.


Tuning / Blend 3
Energy / Intensity 3
Innovation / Creativity 2
Soloists 3
Sound / Production 3
Repeat Listenability 2
Tracks
1 Sicut Cervus Desiderat (Palestrina) 4
2 Ave Maria (Victoria) 3
3 Adoramus Te Christe (DiLasso) 3
4 Agnus Dei (DiLasso) 3
5 Rejoice in the Lord Alway (Redmond) 2
6 Christ Lag in Todesbanden (J.S. Bach) 4
7 Ave Maria (Bruckner) 3
8 Requiem (Introit & Kyrie) (Fauré) 2
9 Gloria (Mass in G) (Schubert) 3
10 Ave Verum Corpus (Mozart) 3
11 O Magnum Mysterium (Victoria) 2
12 Christmas Night (Trad. French) 2
13 Lo How a Rose E'er Blooming (Trad. German) 3
14 Sussex Carol (Trad. English) 3
15 Lullay, Lullay (Coventry Carol) (Trad. English) 4
16 Good King Wenceslas (Trad. English) 2
17 Cantus (13th Cent. Celtic) 3
18 Sweet Little Jesus Boy (MacGimsey) 3
19 What Sweeter Music (Rutter) 2
20 Et in Terra Pax (from the Gloria) (Vivaldi) 3
21 When Christ Was Born on Earth (15th Cent English) 3
22 Softly Rest, O Heavenly Child (Michael Haydn) 2
23 Lullay, I saw a Swete, Semely Syght (Trad. English) 3
24 Magi Viderunt Stellam (Victoria) 3
25 Angelum Ad Pastores Ait (Sweelinck) 2

With In Concert, Cantus Angelicus seeks to present just that: a recording with concert-style sound. As the detailed liner notes make clear, each track was produced with two stereo microphones and minimal studio adjustment, in order to preserve the feel and emotion of an actual performance. In this they succeed fairly well: the overtones supplied by the acoustics of their performance space can add to the sound.

The difficulty I encounter with this sort of production is that, precisely because it is performance-oriented, flaws in tuning, intonation and rhythm are more pronounced than they might be on a more strictly studio album. Although the group is well grounded in Bel Canto, at times their tuning falters considerably, and vowel-matching can be a problem especially between the males and females (witness O Magnum Mysterium). While it is clear that Cantus can sing well, the "single-take" sound does them a disservice from time to time.

Beyond the production, the sound is decent. I am not too excited by the interpretations they offer; perhaps Bel Canto has limited their range more than it should. The net result for me is a fairly homogeneous album which does not really bear being played more than once.

(Caveat emptor a cappellicus: this album employs instrumental accompaniment.)


Tuning / Blend 5
Energy / Intensity 4
Innovation / Creativity 4
Soloists 5
Sound / Production 4
Repeat Listenability 4
Tracks
1 Sicut Cervus Desiderat (Palestrina) 3
2 Ave Maria (Victoria) 3
3 Adoramus Te Christe (DiLasso) 3
4 Agnus Dei (DiLasso) 4
5 Rejoice in the Lord Alway (Redmond) 3
6 Christ Lag in Todesbanden (J.S. Bach) 3
7 Ave Maria (Bruckner) 5
8 Requiem (Introit & Kyrie) (Fauré) 5
9 Gloria (Mass in G) (Schubert) 3
10 Ave Verum Corpus (Mozart) 3
11 O Magnum Mysterium (Victoria) 4
12 Christmas Night (Trad. French) 3
13 Lo How a Rose E'er Blooming (Trad. German) 4
14 Sussex Carol (Trad. English) 4
15 Lullay, Lullay (Coventry Carol) (Trad. English) 5
16 Good King Wenceslas (Trad. English) 3
17 Cantus (13th Cent. Celtic) 4
18 Sweet Little Jesus Boy (MacGimsey) 5
19 What Sweeter Music (Rutter) 4
20 Et in Terra Pax (from the Gloria) (Vivaldi) 4
21 When Christ Was Born on Earth (15th Cent English) 3
22 Softly Rest, O Heavenly Child (Michael Haydn) 3
23 Lullay, I saw a Swete, Semely Syght (Trad. English) 3
24 Magi Viderunt Stellam (Victoria) 3
25 Angelum Ad Pastores Ait (Sweelinck) 4

It took me a couple listens in order for me to really sit down and pay attention to this record. To be honest, it's hard for me to become immediately enraptured by choral music, just because my "modern" proclivities have inured me against the simple pleasure of choral a cappella. I mean, it's not the kind of stuff that makes you want to get up and get jiggy with it. :-) In fact, for the most part, you don't even know what the hell these people are saying.

However, what with impending RARB review deadlines, I finally forced myself to ignore the TV, ignore the radio, ignore the J. Crew magazines that just came in the mail, and really listen to Cantus Angelicus. I'm glad I did, because there are some soprano voices that really make you hark the herald angels as they sing.

Of course, at first I was like, yeah yeah, Latin choral song. Latin choral song. Ad nauseum. But that's just me trying to be cool. Cantus Angelicus can produce some beautiful music. Their blend, tone, and intonation are impeccable. While the album takes a while to warm up, by the time they reach the gorgeous rendition of Bruckner's Ave Maria or the superbly dark Requiem, you're making that raised-eyebrow, nodding-your-head, hey-this-ain't-bad look. There are songs I could do without (Good King Wenceslas), and the CD is a bit long (25 songs), but the Cantus Angelicus Choral Society is kind enough to provide lyrics/translations of all their songs, so you can't really complain about the whole foreign language thing. To top it all off, each recording is done "live", i.e. without postproduction.

I'd like to commend the CACS for having the sense and consideration to produce wonderfully detailed liner notes. The liner not only offers a complete history of the group, it also includes a discussion on the group's training methodology, pictures of the various rosters throughout the years, lyrics for all the songs (as said before), and even brief notes on the composers. Excellent!

Finally, I have to rave a bit about the soprano leads on this album, my absolute favorite being Faith Danneil on Sweet Little Jesus Boy, a stirringly sweet solo that just aches with melancholy. Wow.

If you enjoy choral music, I highly recommend this album.


Tuning / Blend 4
Energy / Intensity 3
Innovation / Creativity 2
Soloists 3
Sound / Production 3
Repeat Listenability 3
Tracks
1 Sicut Cervus Desiderat (Palestrina) 3
2 Ave Maria (Victoria) 3
3 Adoramus Te Christe (DiLasso) 3
4 Agnus Dei (DiLasso) 3
5 Rejoice in the Lord Alway (Redmond) 3
6 Christ Lag in Todesbanden (J.S. Bach) 3
7 Ave Maria (Bruckner) 3
8 Requiem (Introit & Kyrie) (Fauré) 3
9 Gloria (Mass in G) (Schubert) 3
10 Ave Verum Corpus (Mozart) 3
11 O Magnum Mysterium (Victoria) 3
12 Christmas Night (Trad. French) 2
13 Lo How a Rose E'er Blooming (Trad. German) 3
14 Sussex Carol (Trad. English) 2
15 Lullay, Lullay (Coventry Carol) (Trad. English) 3
16 Good King Wenceslas (Trad. English) 3
17 Cantus (13th Cent. Celtic) 3
18 Sweet Little Jesus Boy (MacGimsey) 3
19 What Sweeter Music (Rutter) 3
20 Et in Terra Pax (from the Gloria) (Vivaldi) 3
21 When Christ Was Born on Earth (15th Cent English) 3
22 Softly Rest, O Heavenly Child (Michael Haydn) 3
23 Lullay, I saw a Swete, Semely Syght (Trad. English) 3
24 Magi Viderunt Stellam (Victoria) 3
25 Angelum Ad Pastores Ait (Sweelinck) 3

Ahhh, with this album by Cantus Angelicus I am taken back to my high school days singing with the local community choir (Rockland Camerata) in upstate New York. I think our ensemble sang more than half of the selections on this recording. There seems to be a standard set of choir pieces that are challenging enough to be too hard for most high school choirs, yet easy enough that Mrs. Johnson down the street (who has no formal music training but really loves to sing) can get through. I am not trying to knock community or amateur choirs at all. They do very good work and let a lot of people continue singing all their lives (while pursuing other careers) while not having to rely on it to pay the rent.

With all that said, I feel this is a fine recording. Nothing amazing going on here but it is definitely some good music sung by people who no doubt love what they're doing. Their tuning & timing is decent and their intensity is about average. The innovation/creativity factor does not come in to play here at all. It's pretty hard to be innovative and ground-breaking in this area of music. I suppose much of the innovation would be in the song choices. As I explained above, the song choices are far from ground-breaking.

The production quality of this recording is quite good for a album of this kind. Most choirs of this type record their performances on cassette tape using a couple of SM57's or something. By mixing straight to DAT, they were able to avoid the common tape-hiss problem plagued by so many community choir recordings. There is some perceivable noise in the quieter passages that can be caused by several things, the most likely being the heating or air-conditioning unit in the hall where the album was recorded. You also have your usual audience coughs and throat-clears but it is not really distracting. I would have liked if they had chosen a different space to record in. The room feel a little too live for me and I want to hear more of the choir (maybe closer mic placement would have helped).

Overall, a good album. Nothing too stellar but definitely some fine music.

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Ordering Information

CDs are $13.95, credit cards accepted. See the Cantus Angelicus web site for ordering details.

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