Produced by Stephen M. Sano & Daniel Ho, this excellent holiday offering was recorded at Stanford University Memorial Church and features the Stanford Chamber Chorale with organist Robert Huw Morgan and The Bay Brass. At Stanford, the end of the fall term marks the start of the holiday season for the University community. The recording shares the experience of joy and peace of the season through melody and poetry and is a presentation of voice, organ and brass, designed to capture the glow of a Stanford Christmas. The recording features 22 memorable songs including performances of Daniel Pinkham’s “Christmas Cantata (Sinfonia Sacra)” which utilized antiphonality inspired by the polychoral writing of Gabrieli, combined with an accessible harmonic language rich with rhythmic energy and sensitive text-setting. One of the most beautiful highlights on the recording is David Willcocks’ arrangement of “ O Come All Ye Faithful,” which has become compulsory for choristers the world over. This arrangement features a treble descant for the third verse and a reharmonized organ accompaniment for the final verse. It is absolutely brilliant. “Joy To The World,” the George Frideric Handel/Lowell Mason carol is arranged by David Baldwin who frames the famous carol with the opening and final coda of the chorus Hallelujah from Handel’s Messiah. However, the centerpiece of this brilliant recording is Daniel Ho’s “Soon It Will Be Christmas,” arranged by Christopher Tin. Ho’s 1990 pop ballad now has lush harmonies and superbly crafted harmonic shifts that combine traditional choral writing with popular music sensibilities. To conclude the recording, listeners are offered a jazz inspired twist of “Jingle Bells” which includes virtuosic demands of the brass ensemble. This arrangement provides an exuberant finale to this wonderful celebration of music for the Christmas season. Stephen M. Sano also conducts. Illumine Christmas at Stanford is available through Daniel Ho Creations and is among the best classical choral performances of yuletide music.
December 7, 2013