Shall We Gather
Songs by Copland, Farwell, Foster, Jake Heggie, Ives, F Price, Still, Weill et al
Lucas Meachem (baritone), Irina Meachem (piano)
Rubicon RCD1071 52:54 mins
This debut solo album from acclaimed baritone Lucas Meachem is a collection of American art song that certainly tugs at the heartstrings. Framed as a celebration of America’s ‘resilience and togetherness’, Shall We Gather risks sentimentality in places, but the vibrant and committed performances from this husband-and-wife duo otherwise make this an affecting and appealing disc.
Meachem is at his strongest when reaching further back into America’s song tradition. Unafraid to push the voice to its limits as the music’s message demands, Meachem gives a heartbreakingly beautiful performance of Ives’s soulful arrangement of ‘In The Mornin’’, while Copland’s spirited take on ‘The Boatman’s Dance’ also finds Meachem in startlingly good voice. The album also features a welcome spread of somewhat lesser-known earlier American composers: Irina Meachem brings glittering subtlety to the piano accompaniment in Florence Price’s ‘Night’, while William Grant Still’s tender ‘Grief’ is another highlight of the disc.
The contemporary works featured are a little more mixed. The disc’s opening song, Gene Scheer’s misty-eyed ‘American Anthem’, makes for an unabashedly schmaltzy start that may not be to all tastes. By contrast, the duo gives a restrained and moving account of John Musto’s meditative ‘Litany’, while Jake Heggie’s ‘Pieces of 9/11’ offers an arresting tribute to America’s tragedy 20 years on.
All proceeds from the disc go to the Meachems’ ‘Perfect Day Music Foundation’, a charity promoting diversity in classical music. In all, a commendable venture, performed with real flair and programmed from the heart.