sounding light possesses wonderful heft and maturity of sound, a rich darkness and solid core that creates an immediate feeling of warmth in the listener. The obvious gifts of both conductor Tom Trenney and his twenty-five singers shine through this entire recording; it is as solid a presentation of the Christmas choral repertoire as any released in some time, and will serve conductors as an excellent benchmark recording.
Trenney’s programming choices explore different identities for some familiar tunes through subtle variance of the tempo and style often associated with them. For example, the first track, Jeffrey Van’s arrangement of Once in Royal David’s City, is performed significantly slower and in a style guided more by the contemplative nature of the carol’s text than its traditional position as a processional. In a similar vein, the warhorse Carol of the Drum is performed at a tempo just on the edge of too quick, creating an atmosphere of forward motion and excitement in a piece more often offered as an inexorably plodding march.
In addition to the fine ensemble performance of sounding light, soloists shine on several tracks, a further indication of the depth of talent within the choir. Sensitive additions to the primarily a cappella program include some truly lovely piano and oboe playing; the possibility of monotony is easily avoided by including such accompanied works. The oboe in Dale Warland’s arrangement of The Huron Carol and the delicate piano performance in Abbie Betinis’s fresh setting of Holst’s In the Bleak Midwinter are standout moments. The alternate text employed in Betinis’s arrangement adds new layers of complexity and possibilities to this popular work; this is in keeping with the exploratory nature of the entire album.
In short, the album is full of excellent performances, each one with a finely wrought, compelling musical identity. Perhaps the two moments most indicative of the sensitivity of sounding light’s singing are the simple, elegant presentation of Stanford Scriven’s instant classic Christ the Apple Tree and the subtle attention to diction, particularly shifting intensity of consonants, in Tom Trenney’s own lovely arrangement of O Come, All Ye Faithful. These two moments alone would recommend purchase of this recording; the fact that the rest of the album is equally persuasive is a wonderful bonus!
—Brian Burns, Dubuque, IA