The New York Times
“Surprised by Beauty: Minimalism in Choral Music” by Allan Kozinn
BOSTON SECESSION, a polished, finely blended chamber choir founded in 1996, takes an expansive view of Minimalism here, with some works that are Minimalist only in the sense that their melodies are spare and their rhythms hew close to those of the text, and some that are hardly Minimalist at all. But that’s probably the point: so many footnotes, nuances and reinterpretations have accrued to the definition of Minimalism over the last 40 years that as a stylistic label, it is now as nonspecific as any other ism.
Gavin Bryars and Arvo Pärt, composers often associated with the style, are represented by atypical scores. Having used Minimalism’s repetition and vast time scales freely over the decades, Mr. Bryars abandons both in “And So Ended Kant’s Traveling in This World” (1997), a compact, darkly ruminative setting of a passage from Thomas De Quincey’s “Last Days of Immanuel Kant.” Mr. Pärt’s “Beatitudes” (1990), his first English setting, unfolds with chantlike simplicity over an organ pedal tone. The action is in the harmony, which blossoms in each of the 12 verses.
William Duckworth’s “Southern Harmony” (1981) draws a line between the repetitive solfège singing of early Philip Glass and the actual source here, William Walker’s “Southern Harmony and Musical Companion” (1835). Mr. Duckworth’s elaborate, often densely beautiful settings touch on other styles too: “Wondrous Love” begins in a melismatic, neo-Renaissance style.
In “Transport” (2006) — a fragment from a full-evening work, “Testimony of Witnesses” — Ruth Lomon weaves poetry by Holocaust victims and survivors into a seamless narrative and sets it to music of clarity and pained urgency.
Nothing about the score seems Minimalist, but Ms. Lomon’s haunting vision of tightly packed cattle cars bound for concentration camps is the disc’s most striking score, and it receives the most powerful performance.
LOCAL RECORD LABEL LAUNCHES MAY 10 WITH RELEASE OF FOLK COMPILATION
New music label Brave Records will celebrate its launch at Johnny D’s on May 10, 2005 with a CD release party for Coming Home: Boston Song Collective.
The new recording features songs from 12 Boston-area musicians. It includes cuts from up and coming singer-songwriters like Lisa Bastoni and Sandi Hammond, as well as more seasoned performers like Ksenia Mack who has shared stages with Willy Nelson and Arlo Guthrie.
Brave Records founder Keith Hampton produced the album over the last two years at Boston’s Melville Park Studio, in a collaborative effort with eleven other performing songwriters.
“The label represents aspects of my own career and my musical education. It includes new and older musical traditions in all their different forms and combinations,” Hampton says. “I’m equally interested in classical, traditional folk music, and singer-song writers. Brave Records has become a means for me to distribute my own music, as well as vehicle for me to support other local artists I believe in.”
He released his own recording, HOPEfire, which received a nomination from the Stonewall Society for a 2003 genre award. He performs his songs at local clubs and coffeehouses, and opened for nationally renowned artist Cosy Sheridan at Club Passim. Hampton is also a member of The Boston Secession, a professional choral ensemble with an educational focus, presenting multimedia performances dedicated to “making music new.” The Boston Secession released its own debut CD, Afterlife: German Choral Meditations on Mortality, on Brave Records in March 2005.
Brave Records echoes Hampton’s musical life. It carries music ranging from contemporary singer-songwriters to traditional Central American and European folk; classical and contemporary choral music; and classical harp. One disc, Birth and Rebirth, features traditional Romanian Christmas carols and Easter hymns. All proceeds from the album support a Romanian orphanage for abandoned children.
He sees both the Coming Home compilation and the label itself as an opportunity to create a musical community that crosses genres, reflecting his own eclectic musical passions while promoting some hidden Boston area musical jewels.
“Some of them are not so hidden,” Hampton says. “My hope is that as I continue my own musical journey, I will have the opportunity to support other artists who share my love of musical excellence in diversity.” Performers at the May 10 CD release event will include Keith Hampton, Ksenia Mack, Charlene DiCalogero and the September Babies, Sandi Hammond, Tim Riordan, Felicia Brady, Esther Friedman, and Licia Sky.
Brave Records Launch and CD release for Coming Home: Boston Song Collective. 8:30 pm Tuesday May 10, 2005 at Johnny D’s Uptown Lounge (Davis Square, Somerville). Advance dinner reservations: 617.776.2004. General admission tickets available at the door for $8.