In Celebration of the Human Voice - The Essential Musical Instrument
The Grammy Award-winning Phoenix Chorale, in residence at Trinity Episcopal Cathedral in downtown Phoenix, is regarded as one of the finest professional choral ensembles in America. The 27-voice chorus, under the direction of Artistic Director Charles Bruffy, is equally dedicated to the creation and performance of new music, which is intermingled with more traditional concert literature.
Audiences around the world have been treated to the sounds of the Chorale through live performances across the United States and in Canada, and in live broadcasts and recordings on radio stations across the globe.
In March 2009, the Phoenix Chorale made their New York debut with their sister organization, the Kansas City Chorale, at Lincoln Center's Alice Tully Hall. The New York Times referred to the Chorales' "...refined sound and elegant phrasing..." with "vivid intensity..." and the performance had a "...buoyant pulse and energetic finesse."
In 2004, the Phoenix Chorale released Shakespeare in Song and became the first North American choir to release an album on U.K.-based Chandos Records, one of the world's largest independent classical record labels. Since that release, the Phoenix Chorale has received a total of eight Grammy Award nominations, receiving nominations in the following categories two years in a row: "Best Classical Album," "Best Choral Performance," and "Best Surround Sound." Their latest solo recording, Spotless Rose, received a Grammy Award for "Best Small Ensemble Performance" in 2009. In 2008, Grechaninov: Passion Week, a joint-recording with the Kansas City Chorale, also won a Grammy Award for "Best Engineered Album, Classical." Two other joint-recordings with the Kansas City Chorale have been released on Chandos; Eternal Rest and Rheinberger: Sacred Choral Works.
Originally called the Bach & Madrigal Society of Phoenix, the Phoenix Chorale was founded in 1958 as a small study group in the living room of Drs. Hal & Timona Pittman. At that time, the group focused on the music of the Renaissance and Baroque periods. Most recently, the Phoenix Chorale was known as the Phoenix Bach Choir, a name the group performed under for nearly twenty years.
In its fifty-two year history, the Phoenix Chorale's conductors have included Millicent Wesley, Wallace Hornibrook, Dan Durand, Vance George, Anders Öhrwall, Jon Washburn, and Charles Bruffy.
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Review: Finnish composer Jaakko Mantyjarvi (b. 1963) writes some of today's more innovative choral music. It's not only creatively interesting but it also maintains the qualities of tonal/harmonic accessibility and text-centered immediacy that allows it to register with a broad spectrum of listeners. His collections of Shakespeare Songs, More Shakespeare Songs, and No More Shakespeare Songs show a composer at once in love with his subject and fully in tune with his audience - and one clearly in possession of a sense of humor! On this recording we hear a profoundly serious work, in memory of the victims of a terrible Baltic Sea tragedy in September, 1994, in which the luxury ferry Estonia sank in a storm, killing 852 passengers. Canticum Calamitatis Maritimae incorporates elements of Psalm 107 ("They that go down to the sea in ships...") with news accounts of the disaster (taken from a Latin-language Finnish radio broadcast), employing dramatic, rich-textured choral utterances (including the whispered prayers of the opening and closing bars) along with chant-inspired passages and an occasional folk-song-like melody, all of which culminates in an extended passage of beautiful and often surprising harmonies, ideally defining the text at the end of the Psalm: "He maketh the storm a calm, so that the waves thereof are still..." This is a moving and memorable work, one that these choirs perform with care and confidence under Charles Bruffy's artful direction. Frank Martin's Mass for double choir has been recorded many times--and mostly very well--and this is another fine rendition of a work that seems to register its "classic" credentials more impressively every time you hear it. Rene Clausen's In pace, cut from the same vibrant-colored harmonic cloth as the Ticheli, is another work that deserves repertoire status, and again, Bruffy's singers perfectly capture its nuances of texture and dynamics and give full measure to the big sonorities. The complementary acoustics of Camelback Bible Church in Paradise Valley, Arizona, expertly recorded for this hybrid SACD, complete a program that should have strong appeal to all choral music fans.
Review: Founded in 1958 as the Bach and Madrigal Society, the Choir originally focused on Renaissance and baroque period music, but today is equally dedicated to the creation and performance of new music. They are conducted by Charles Bruffy, one of the most highly respected choral conductors in the US. The CD features 23 songs, beginning with 7 cuts from Matthew Harris' "Shakespeare Songs," and 5 "Songs of Ariel from Shakespeare's 'The Tempest.' Steven Sametz' lovely "When He Shall Die," Jaakko Mantyjarvi's "Four Shakespeare Songs," Nils Lindberg's minor-key "Shall I Compare Thee to a Summer's Day," Dominick Argento's "Sonnet No. LXIV," Alan Murray's "O mistress mine," and the CD finishes strong with Ralph Vaughan Williams' "Three Shakespeare Songs." The Choir beautifully takes us into the drama, moodiness, pathos, romance and celebration of these songs, most of which are new to our ears. A worthy project, and a winning CD for Bruffy and his talented Phoenix Bach Choir! Extensive, colorful liner notes.
Review: The Phoenix Bach Choir four years ago premiered Milagros de Navidad, a Christmas cycle for choir as a way of marking the holiday season in a Southwestern accent. In this recording, the choir has made Milagros the lead item in a superbly produced and packaged yuletide CD from an emerging Arizona label, Soundset. Jon Washburn conducts the ensemble of Frank Koonce, guitar; Mark Sunkett, percussion; and the choir with select soloists. In this sonically clean and vibrant recording, Milagros is a compendium of yuletide songs lovingly sung in Spanish and English, with running commentary from guitarist Koonce. Robert Tree Cody, on Native American Flute (the instrument of choice this season, it seems), is also heard here, in Washburn's own Noel Sing We, a kind of American Indian-haunted holiday landscape.