DVD & Blu-ray Reviews

A Company of Voices (2009)

One of the most uplifting concerts I have ever seen or heard

Published on May 20, 2009

A Company of Voices (2009)

A Company of Voices

Performers: Bion Tsang, cello/ Thomas Burritt, percussion/ Conspirare/ Craig Hella Johnson, conductor
Studio:  Harmonia mundi HMD 9907535
Director: Karen McLaughlin

Video: 16:9 Color
Audio: PCM Stereo; DTS 5.1
Region Code: All regions
Extras: Conversations: Craig Hella Johnson (with Midge Woolsey); Reflections: Conspirare (Conspirare singers share experiences); Behind the Scenes (still photos); Backdrop Images
Length: Feature: 56:00; Extras: 38:00
Rating: *****

I don’t really know what is was—the fact that I was up late when I heard this, or too tired after a brutal day, or the fact that I had just heard a good friend of mine was facing brain cancer surgery the next day, but I bawled through this concert. Maybe it was just release, but I think more than that, for the music here strikes me as so hopeful and reassuring, and each new number that came my way settled my soul like no concert has for a long, long while. I found myself sorry that one song was ending at the same time I was enthusiastically and eagerly anticipating the next.

Conspirare is an Austin, Texas based group founded by Craig Hella Johnson, a man whose credits include a stint with Chanticleer. He knows exactly what he wants from this group, and gets it in spades. Though really classically trained, they are able to take the frequently excellent Johnson arrangements of popular music as well and elevate them to the realm of art. The mix and match is brilliantly interposed, and the choir sings with an engaging sense of commitment and almost evangelical zeal. I’ll convert to this any day, and you’ll have trouble resisting too.

The video production is nicely done, a PBS special, along with some interesting and worthwhile bonuses as listed above. I listened in DTS and found the surround sound nicely imaged, lacking perhaps a tad of detail found in the stereo version, but not enough to make me abandon my principles. Urgently recommended! [Conspirare also have out a CD which I have reviewed here.]

DVD TrackList:

1. Sure on This Shining Night (Morten Lauridsen)
2. Let the River Run (Carly Simon, arr. CHJ)
3. The Water is Wide (traditional, arr. CHJ)
4. Didn’t My Lord Deliver Daniel? (spiritual, arr. Moses Hagan)
5. Will There Really Be a “Morning”? (Craig Hella Johnson)
6. Light of a Clear Blue Morning (Dolly Parton, arr. CHJ)
7. Agnus Dei excerpt (Samuel Barber)
8. Gabriel’s Oboe (Ennio Morricone) Bion Tsang, cello/ Ian Davidson, oboe
9. Soneto de la Noche (Morten Lauridsen)
10. What If (Eric Whitacre)
11. Requiem (Eliza Gilkyson, arr. CHJ)
12. 1000 Beautiful Things (Annie Lennox, arr. CHJ)
13. Triptych (excerpt) III. Each shall rise (Tarik O’Regan)
14. I Love You (Larry Norman, Randy Stonehill, arr. CHJ)/ What a Wonderful World (Robert Thiele, George David Weiss, arr. CHJ)
15. The First of My Lovers (Sydney Carter, arr. CHJ)

Plus Bonus Music Tracks

1. Collage (arr. CHJ)
Wayfarin’ Stranger (traditional)/You’re No Good (Clint Ballard, Jr.)/De Profundis (chant)/See My Eyes (Andrew Lloyd Webber)/ Crying (Joe Melson, Roy Orbison)/Drop, Drop Slow Tears (Orlando Gibbons)
2. Deep River (spiritual, arr. Roy Ringwald)
3. When I Fall in Love (Edward Herman, arr. CHJ)/Nearer My God to Thee (Lowell Mason, arr. CHJ)

— Steven Ritter

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