Illumine Our Hearts – Liturgical and Secular Jewish Choral Music – Stan Nelson (cantor)/ Rebecca Harris (soprano)/ Alan Taylor (tenor)/ other vocal soloists/ Sursum Corda/ Lester Seigel, conductor – MSR

by | Jul 6, 2010 | Classical CD Reviews | 0 comments

Illumine Our Hearts – Liturgical and Secular Jewish Choral Music – Stan Nelson (cantor)/ Rebecca Harris (soprano)/ Alan Taylor (tenor)/ other vocal soloists/ Sursum Corda/ Lester Seigel, conductor – MSR 1295, 55:13 [Distr. by Albany] ***1/2:

The Birmingham, Alabama-based, Sursum Corda is a 16-voice ensemble (originally 12) that was formed in 2006. Lester Siegel, who is director of choral activities at Birmingham-Southern College and organist/choirmaster at Canterbury United Methodist Church, is the conductor. This is the group’s first album, recorded in the sanctuary of the Canterbury United Methodist Church in Mt. Brook, Alabama. The sound is rather close yet still warmly reverberant, meaning you might want to turn the volume down and make some slight adjustments in the treble is order to procure the most voluptuous tone. But the choir, for the most part sings very well, certainly not up to British-style chorale groups of famous provenance, and with more of lusty southern-style edginess to them, but I don’t mind that at all.

The program, admittedly eclectic, is not quite true to purely Jewish music, or even completely choral, as Bloch interjects two short organ pieces, and Frank Tischeli’s There will be rest might be the best piece on the disc. Creep along, Moses is a strange choice also, the connection with Jewish music being at best tenuous. But the wonderful drama of Mizmorei Tehillim’s (b. 1927) Psalm 150 and the concluding Cuando el Rey Nimrod, a Sephardic tradition folksong show us some wonderful things here.

Overall the program is a little inconsistent, though the choir acquits itself well for its debut. Surveys don’t do a lot for me, but I can see how the choir would want to show off various facets of its art. I think a different chosen lineup would have done that better, but Sursum Corda definitely whets the appetite for more.

TrackList:

1. Rossi: Al Naharot Bavel    
2. B tseit Yisrael / In Exitu Israel (chants, arr. Jacobson)    
3. Avni: Mizmorei Tehillim, Psalm 47: 1-2, 6, 8    
4. Avni: Mizmorei Tehillim, Psalm 48: 2    
5. Avni: Mizmorei Tehillim, Psalm 150    
6. O Kum, Shoyn Shtiler Ovnt (anon, arr. Mark Zuckerman)    
7. Olshanetsky: Vilne (arr. M. Zuckerman)    
8. Bloch: Prelude [organ solo]    
9. Starer: Give Thanks Unto The Lord    
10. Schalit: Mi Yitneini    
11. Hayo, Haya (Chanukah folksong, arr. Prussing)    
12. Bloch: Processional [organ solo]    
13. Freed: Va ani S filosi    
14. Ticheli: There Will Be Rest    
15. Avinu Malkeinu (traditional tune, arr. Seigel)    
16. Nelson: Cause Us, O Lord Our God    
17. Creep Along, Moses (American folk song, arr. Kubik)    
18. Cuando El Rey Nimrod (Ladino folk song, arr. Seigel)

— Steven Ritter