Evlogitaria of the Resurrection by Kurt Sander

These is a wonderful setting of the Evlogitaria by American composer Kurt Sander. And even better - it's in English with a score you can follow along. These verses, whose title comes from the word "Blessed" are interspersed with the refrain "Blessed are Thou, O Lord, teach me Thy statutes." Over and over the text drives home the great surprise of the resurrection to the women at the tomb (known in Orthodox terminology as "the Myrrh-bearing Women."

While I never sang this arrangement (and wish I had), these verses were the highlight of the Paschal season for me. When we came to the Leave-Taking of Easter, I could hardly wait for another year to roll around.

Sander is a professor at Northern Kentucky University, composes, teaches, and lectures worldwide. You can find out more about him at his website and enjoy his music on YouTube. My own ensemble, Cantorae sang his setting of the Beatitudes, as well as his hymn to the Virgin. He is a light in the worl…

Reformed Presbyterians Singing Psalm 102

Four parts, a cappella, and especially splendid because of the huge number of singers, this recording comes from a conference of Reformed Presbyterians at Calvin College. This denomination was also called the Covenanters in Scotland, where the practice of "public covenanting" was practiced starting in the 16th century.  The covenant asserted the Kingship of Christ over secular rulers. They remain the most conservative group of Presbyterians. Strictly evangelical, Biblical - and obviously musical. Remember - no one sang anything but psalms for quite some time in the churches of the reformation.

They use no instruments in their worship and use only the psalms as their music. The setting comes from a book called the "Book of Psalms for Singing 1973."

Elgar's Lux Aeterna Sung by VOCES8

Can anything be lovelier? I won't say more than this. Take a moment to breathe with the music.

Gospel A Cappella - Jesus is Coming Soon

This is contemporary a cappella gospel, so consider yourself forewarned. It's high energy, flings the melody all over the parts, and does what I think of as the "Barry Manilow" modulation, up a half-step. At the same time, it's fun listening and you've got to admire the technique even if it's not your cup of polyphony!

More about the group and their recordings is here

Here is the Little Door with the Gesualdo Six

You're probably wondering if it isn't a little early for the Howells' Christmas carol. Not really if you have a good choir and might consider it for December. And not really if you'd just like to hear some fine singing from this ensemble.

Here's the text:

Here is the little door, lift up the latch, oh lift!
We need not wander more but enter with our gift;
Our gift of finest gold,
Gold that was never bought nor sold;
Myrrh to be strewn about his bed;
Incense in clouds about his head;
All for the Child who stirs not in his sleep.
But holy slumber holds with ass and sheep.

Bend low about his bed, for each he has a gift;
See how his eyes awake, lift up your hands, O lift!
For gold, he gives a keen-edged sword
(Defend with it Thy little Lord!),
For incense, smoke of battle red.
Myrrh for the honoured happy dead;
Gifts for his children terrible and sweet,
Touched by such tiny hands and
Oh such tiny feet.

Frances Chesterton

You can learn more about the ensemble  at their…

Music from the Monks of Valaam

This Church Slavonic version of Agni Parthenon (O Virgin Pure) is interesting. Four singers, one of whom never moves his mouth (so who knows if he’s singing at all, even the ison). What's Valaam? An island in the northwestern part of Russia and an ancient monastery. The island in Lake Lagoda has bounced back and forth between Finland and Russia. The chant is peculiar to the place, much simpler than Byzantine chant with strong resemblance to Znammeny (the Russian chant that preceded the introduction of polyphonic chant). You can learn more about Valaam and its history on Wikipedia or just enjoy the pictures on the Russian website. Monasteries are very important in the Orthodox world as points of pilgrimage and as the home of monks whom the laity respect as spiritual advisors.

This is a hymn beloved throughout the Orthodox world. Sing it to a room of Greeks and several will weep. Why? I think it's the tune, based on Greek folk style. It sounds like home, like a song about your …

Blooming Vale and Anonymous 4

A lovely shape-note tune drawn from the Psalms and sung with great tenderness by Anonymous 4. The visuals are entertaining bits of New England history and locations. This is a fuging tune, meaning that its chorus features imitative entries.

This ensemble in its various combinations of singers over the years showed all of us that you could do great things with treble voices. The only requirement was four fantastic singers, good scholarship, and a heart for all types and periods of music.