WORKS: Saw You my Savior?; The Young Convert; Christian Race
PERFORMER: Boston Camerata, Schola Cantorum of Boston, Brown University Chamber Chorus/Joel Cohen
CATALOGUE NO: 0630-12711-2
‘The American Vocalist’; ‘An American Christmas’; ‘New Britain – the roots of American Folksong’: the Boston Camerata’s stunning collection on Erato grows apace. One is grateful: its disinterment of buried treasures of the 17th- and 18th-century American musical tradition (reaching back, in its medieval European roots, further still) is performing an inestimable service for sacred and secular enthusiasts alike.
Joel Cohen’s exquisite group (seven solo singers and five instrumentalists) here present 28 items – many culled from sadly lapsed American hymnodies, and most of them gems. What lifts the disc is the quality of the solo work (a carefree Gypsy Song; Elizabeth Anker, violin-accompanied in ‘Saw You my Savior?’; Cohen on guitar in a ballad Britten might have poached for Paul Bunyan).
There’s some impeccable two- and three-part ensemble (‘Christian Race’, or Ingalls’s ‘The Young Convert’), word-clarity is consistent and there are some rich, dense lower textures. Cohen shrewdly juxtaposes the ‘rugged’ secular and its (almost as rugged) sacred offspring, and revels in the sheer fervour and zest of revivalist song. Roderic Dunnett