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Sing Freedom!: African-American Spirituals / Company of Voices

Album Summary

>Traditional Spiritual : Sometimes I Feel Like a Motherless Child
>Traditional Spiritual : Po' Pilgrim of Sorrow (a.k.a. A City called Heaven)
>Johnson, Craig Hella : Soon Ah Will Be Done / I Wanna Die Easy, spiritual
>Dawson, William : Soon Ah Will Be Done
>Traditional Spiritual : Hard Trials
>Traditional Spiritual : Hold On, gospel song
>Johnson, Craig Hella : Been in de Storm / Wayfaring Stranger, spiritual
>Traditional Spiritual : Oh Graveyard (Lay This Body Down)
>Traditional Spiritual : Ain't That Good News, spiritual
>Traditional Spiritual : Steal Away to Jesus, spiritual
>Traditional Spiritual : Walk Together Children
>Traditional Spiritual : I Got a Home in that Rock
>Traditional Spiritual : Lily of the Valley
>Shaw, Kirby : Plenty Good Room (On the Glory Train), spiritual
>Traditional : My God Is a Rock
>Kyr, Robert : Freedom Song, spiritual
>Traditional Spiritual : Swing Low, Sweet Chariot
Performers Conductor Ensemble
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Composers

Notes & Reviews:

One of the seminal American musical traditions, the spiritual is dramatic, powerful and profoundly beautiful - the bedrock for much of the American music that was to follow. On their new album Sing Freedom!, Craig Hella Johnson and Conspirare explore the genre's wide range of expression and its eloquence in speaking to universal aspects of the human condition.

Notes & Reviews:

Recording information: Sauder Concert Hall, Goshen College, IN (10/2010).

Performances of African-American spirituals by predominantly white choirs in what conductor Craig Hella Johnson calls "choral art arrangements" can be dicey affairs; it's not common to hear a choir so free from the constraints of the written notes that it can soar with the kind of passion and spirit the music requires. Even so, spirituals are so durable they can make a powerful impact even in less-than-ideal performances, but it's a special pleasure to hear them sung as freely and intensely and beautifully as they are here by Conspirare's Company of Voices, led by Johnson. The singers maintain exceptionally pure and focused tone even when they are sliding and bending pitches. Most of the pieces have solo parts that are sung with assurance and idiomatic sensitivity. One of the strengths of the album is the diversity of the repertoire and the arrangements. About half the tracks are well-known songs and about half are likely to be new to general audiences. There's a healthy selection of traditional, familiar arrangements by Moses Hogan, William Dawson, Wendell Whalum, Alice Parker, and Robert Shaw. Several are presented in new versions by David Lang, Tarik O'Regan, and Johnson himself, who are among the strongest and most distinctive choral composers of the early 21st century, and there are original works by Kirby Shaw and Robert Kyr, and these new versions and songs really make the album stand out. Lang, Johnson, and especially O'Regan make some daring departures from tradition in their arrangements, but they are gripping; O'Regan's serenely understated setting of "Swing Low, Sweet Chariot" is a real ear-opener. The new works are hugely effective. Kirby Shaw's "Plenty of Room (On the Glory Train)" is traditional enough to sound like an authentic spiritual and Kyr's "Freedom Song" is hypnotically dazzling in its wild abandon. The sound of Harmonia Mundi's SACD is terrific: clean, warm, and immediate. ~ Stephen Eddins



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Works Details

>Traditional Spiritual : Sometimes I Feel Like a Motherless Child
  • Performer: Melissa Givens (Soprano)
  • Conductor: Craig Hella-Johnson
  • Running Time: 5 min. 5 sec.
  • Period Time: Romantic
  • Written: by 1865

>Traditional Spiritual : Po' Pilgrim of Sorrow (a.k.a. A City called Heaven)
  • Conductor: Craig Hella-Johnson
  • Running Time: 4 min. 1 sec.
  • Period Time: Romantic
  • Written: by 1865

>Johnson, Craig Hella : Soon Ah Will Be Done / I Wanna Die Easy, spiritual
  • Performers: Matt Alber; Abigail Lennox (Voice)
  • Conductor: Craig Hella-Johnson
  • Running Time: 5 min. 53 sec.
  • Period Time: Modern

>Dawson, William : Soon Ah Will Be Done
  • Conductor: Craig Hella-Johnson
  • Running Time: 4 min. 6 sec.
  • Period Time: Modern

>Traditional Spiritual : Hard Trials
  • Performers: Nicole Greenidge; Craig Hella-Johnson (Piano)
  • Conductor: Craig Hella-Johnson
  • Running Time: 6 min. 1 sec.
  • Period Time: Romantic

>Traditional Spiritual : Hold On, gospel song
  • Performers: Nicole Greenidge; Gitamjali Mathur (Percussion); Stefanie Moore
  • Conductor: Craig Hella-Johnson
  • Running Time: 2 min. 58 sec.

>Johnson, Craig Hella : Been in de Storm / Wayfaring Stranger, spiritual
  • Performer: Sonja Tengblad
  • Conductor: Craig Hella-Johnson
  • Running Time: 7 min. 6 sec.
  • Period Time: Modern

>Traditional Spiritual : Oh Graveyard (Lay This Body Down)
  • Performers: Cameron Beauchamp (Voice); Carr Hornbuckle; Nina Revering (Soprano); Matthew Tresler
  • Conductor: Craig Hella-Johnson
  • Running Time: 3 min. 15 sec.

>Traditional Spiritual : Ain't That Good News, spiritual
  • Conductor: Craig Hella-Johnson
  • Running Time: 1 min. 56 sec.

>Traditional Spiritual : Steal Away to Jesus, spiritual
  • Performers: Julie Keim; Tracy Shirk
  • Conductor: Craig Hella-Johnson
  • Running Time: 3 min. 19 sec.
  • Period Time: Romantic

>Traditional Spiritual : Walk Together Children
  • Conductor: Craig Hella-Johnson
  • Running Time: 2 min. 48 sec.
  • Period Time: Romantic

>Traditional Spiritual : I Got a Home in that Rock
  • Performer: David Farwig (Charango)
  • Conductor: Craig Hella-Johnson
  • Running Time: 3 min. 27 sec.
  • Period Time: Romantic

>Traditional Spiritual : Lily of the Valley
  • Conductor: Craig Hella-Johnson
  • Running Time: 3 min. 50 sec.

>Shaw, Kirby : Plenty Good Room (On the Glory Train), spiritual
  • Conductor: Craig Hella-Johnson
  • Running Time: 3 min. 18 sec.
  • Period Time: Contemporary

>Traditional : My God Is a Rock
  • Performer: Charles Evans
  • Conductor: Craig Hella-Johnson
  • Running Time: 7 min. 14 sec.

>Kyr, Robert : Freedom Song, spiritual
  • Performers: David Farwig (Charango); Rick Gabrillo (Percussion)
  • Conductor: Craig Hella-Johnson
  • Running Time: 3 min. 36 sec.
  • Period Time: Contemporary

>Traditional Spiritual : Swing Low, Sweet Chariot
  • Conductor: Craig Hella-Johnson
  • Running Time: 4 min. 8 sec.
  • Period Time: Romantic
  • Written: by 1865