Yours in Song – University of South Dakota Chamber Singers/ David Holdhusen – Con Brio Recordings CBR21343, 76:16 [Distr. by Albany] ****1/2:
Every decent university in America has a chamber chorus. Here in Atlanta we are inundated with them—the south has more choruses per capita than any other place in the United States—we live choral music, and of course the Robert Shaw influence took hold years ago, inspiring even local talent to new levels of excellence.
So no way was I expecting to be so enthralled by the excellence of this disc. Taken from live concerts over a four year period, each work was recorded at First Congregational Church in Sioux Falls, and the consistency of both the sound and the performances is quite stunning. In fact, I have heard carefully-monitored studio recordings that are nowhere near as crystalline and detailed as this one, each track displaying a lovely resonance and depth of aural perspective that is very nice.
Program-wise there are many excellent highlights here: it would be unfair to single out some for fear of missing others. But I will say that the spirituals in particular take a life of their own and are given with lots of spirit and enthusiasm, and even the gorgeous standards like Franz Biebl’s miraculous Ave Maria are dutifully presented with all requisite passion and respect.
All is not perfect—there are some moments of sustaining sound that seem to founder somewhat, and also some intonation blips that pass quickly and are corrected, but generally speaking this is about as fine a collegiate ensemble as I have heard, sporting a variety of colors and a smooth, generous tonal allure with excellent diction. David Holdhusen is obviously a man who takes his choral singing seriously and settles for nothing but the highest standards. It takes a lot of guts—and confidence—to enter the recorded choral fray, and there are thousands of albums out there. This one is one of the best.
TrackList:1. Noel : arr. Brad Holmes 2. i thank You God for most this amazing day : Christine Temple-Evans 3. Keltic Song : Allan Rae Hinshaw 4. Search Me, O God : Jonny Priano 5. Chichester Mass : William Albright 6. Ave Maria : Franz Biebl 7. Water Night : Eric Whitacre 8. Wade in the Water : arr. Moses Hogan 9. Vieni Nel Mio Cuore : Jonny Priano 10. Dies Irae : Zdenek Lukas 11. Stabat Mater : Kevin Memley 12. Data est Mihi Omnis Potestas : James MacMillan 13. There Will Be Rest : Frank Ticheli 14. O Day Full of Grace : arr. F. Melius Christiansen 15. Wake Up, Ollie Brown! : Ben Allaway