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Friday, September 20, 2019

The Crossing, Voyages, Music of Robert Convery, 1994 and Benjamin C.S. Boyle, 2018

In life even if you do not travel a mile you still take repeated voyages through the seasons, that is if you live in a temperate clime. As I write this a season begins here where I sit at dawn. And so the musical theme seems especially appropriate. It is appropriate that the CD I review is entitled Voyages (Innova 028). And it is a special advantage that the music is performed by the absolute ace vocal ensemble The Crossing. I have come to appreciate their now more and more bulky catalog of releases and today's is especially beautiful and well sung.

It involves two Modern works of our time, fine music that has a tuneful, haunting vernacular and post-Modern sort of quality--all about the joy of music to be sung, in a way.

The works speak, they sing, they sound ravishing in The Crossing's hands. They show us that lyrical expression is very much alive. The program beings with "Voyages" (1994) by Robert Convery and concludes with "Voyages, Cantata No. 2, Op. 41" (2018) by Benjamin C.S. Boyle.

Tonality is firmly in the driver's seat, a sophisticated Modern sort yet very song-like too. You hear in both works traces of Jazz, of a Post-minimal linearity, of contemporary song, of choral roots. These two pieces are so well wrought for the likes of the Crossing that one immediately takes note. This is one of The Crossings strengths, that is, that lovingly sung group sound, of beauty unabashed, without undue self-consciousness or irony.

The Robert Convery work has in its six movements a tensile strength in a ravishing ever presence. It sounds like a joy to sing and director Donald Nally once again gets all completely right, and perhaps that goes without saying. Yet this work feels very right, regardless of whatever else one might say. It is a vocal collective sound that is perhaps homespun, local in its universality, phrased judiciously like gems in the a cappella choral tradition, going back to a De Prez or Bach and outwards through Mozart and Ives and beyond!

The Benjamin C. S. Boyle adds a chamber string orchestra and jumps in from the start with ecstatic singing that sounds aurally to me as a celebratory sort of joy. There are six movements, six moments, six memorable lyrical paeans to being. Like Hindemith and Vaughan Williams, this composer seems very capable of doing something with Walt Whitman, but then this work has everything happy going for it regardless. And in any case the lyrics are based on Hart Crane, nicely so. Like Convery he shows a rare sort of songfulness and further listens confirm just how nicely put together is this music.

It would be hard to imagine better performances of these two fine works. The Crossing make some essential music and surely this is a disk example of one I gladly deem essential among this year's releases. It is heartening and not quite Modern anymore in that older sense but the point is the joy of the tones, the singing of the world spinning in endless Voyages through space! Through spacetime! Bravo!

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