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Aliqua: All I Want / Music for Christmas

Notes & Reviews:

2009 holiday release from the Canadian choral outfit. All I Want is rich in the spectacular, warm harmonies that one would expect from the group, as they travel through this 13 track collection of wonderfully eclectic seasonal songs. Their previous self-titled album showcased their diversity, from a Venezuelan traveling song to a French lullaby, a South Mexican huapango to an Argentinean tango - Aliqua strives to engulf themselves and their audience in unknown and unexpected territory. There is no term that sufficiently defines Aliqua - a hybrid combining choral, Folk, World, and Pop styles into something unique. Singing only what they think is interesting, terrifying, enthralling or beautiful, Aliqua knows no boundaries. Nettwerk. 2009.

Notes & Reviews:

Recording information: Air Studios, London; The Armoury, Vancouver.

As a quick follow-up to their self-titled debut album, the eight-member female choral group Aliqua from Vancouver, Canada, released a holiday collection, All I Want. The singers, sopranos Erin Bishop, Katy Cadman, Heather Ray, and Amy Stevenson, and altos Sarah Jane Bird, Tavia Cosper, Ellie Lesani, and Alice Schwarz, are determined both to address traditional Christmas fare and to transform it, so they do some extensive rearranging here. The best example may be "All Is Calm," credited to Schubert because it is really the composer's "Ave Maria" transformed. Bishop's arrangement borrows lyrics from other Christmas songs and mixes them with the Latin originals, while also taking the music and reharmonizing it so that the melody is more an underlying factor than the dominant sound. Then, there's "Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy" from Tchaikovsky's ballet The Nutcracker, with the singers taking over the instrumental parts with wordless sounds. (For good measure, the album ends with a dance remix of the tune dubbed "Sugafunscary.") "Silent Night" (aka "Still Nacht") has a pedal steel guitar applied to it behind Aliqua's haunting vocal parts. And "The Little Babe," excerpted from Benjamin Britten's A Ceremony of Carols, becomes a flamenco, complete with Spanish guitar. Occasionally, Aliqua play things straight, especially when, as in "Carol of the Bells," the tune, with its rapid tempo, is challenging enough as written. But they are determined not to fall back on their angelic voices to create a conventional holiday collection; instead, they want to shake things up, and they largely succeed. ~ William Ruhlmann


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