Review: Carols for Quire from the Old & New Worlds, Volume 2 (QC102)

This is a live recording of two Christmas concerts held in Cleveland’s Trinity Cathedral in 2010 and 2011 . Quire Cleveland was founded in 2008, 24 voices singing five centuries of a cappella repertoire from the Medieval to the modern. Seven pieces on the CD were arranged by Ross W. Duffin, the founding artistic director, whose two published books, How Equal Temperament Ruined Harmony (and Why You Should Care) and Shakespeare’s Songbook, have gained international renown. As director of the Case Western Reserve University Historical Performance Program since 1978 and host of the 1980s radio show Micrologus: Exploring the World of Early Music, Duffin has promoted early music across the United States.

… Quire sings with great heart and power, and this writer would love to hear them live or in a studio recording. … One of many stand-out pieces on the recording is a soul-rending version of the masterpiece “Verbum caro factum est” from Piae cantiones (1582); monophonic in the original manuscript, it has been harmonized by Duffin using period contrapuntal techniques to great effect.

This would be a lovely disc to give to people who have no knowledge of Christmas music before 20th-century carols, giving them access to a rich mosaic of music reaching back to the 13th century. For the early repertoire especially, this is a brilliant exploration. The programming proceeds from the very ancient to our own day, with Gustav Holst’s “In the bleak midwinter” and a world premiere of “Quiet Promise” by modern American composer Jennifer Conner (b. 1962).