Chilcott: Circlesong / Simpson, Houston Chamber & Treble Choirs
A work filled with ambition, Circlesong is a musical portrayal of the human life cycle as captured in the Indigenous poetry of North America. Based on poetry from the Chinook, Comanche, Dakota, Eskimo, Iroquois, Kwakiutl, Navajo, Ojibwa, Pueblo, Seminole, Sioux, and Yaqui traditions, the thirteen movements, in seven parts, mark the different stages of life, from birth and childhood to adulthood, middle age and death. With energetic percussion accompaniment, climactic moments for tutti choir, tender unaccompanied passages and solo song, Circlesong is a work of impressive drama, variety, and depth, performed here by the Grammy® Award winning Houston Chamber Choir under Robert Simpson.
Founded in 1995 by Artistic Director Robert Simpson, the Houston Chamber Choir received the 2019 Grammy® Award for Best Choral Performance for its recording of the complete works of Maurice Duruflé (also available from Signum). Other honors include Chorus America’s Margaret Hillis Award for Choral Excellence and the American Prize, Professional Choir Division. Dubbed by Jamie Bernstein as “the choral equivalent of the Harlem Globetrotters” the Houston Chamber Choir is as comfortable singing jazz with Christian McBride and Dave Brubeck as performing Morton Feldman’s Rothko Chapel with violist Kim Kashkashian, and Mass Observation by Tarik O’Regan.
Chilcott sets his texts in varied ways and also employs variety in his scoring. So, for example, some of the movements are a cappella though most are accompanied in some way. Again, some movements are sung only by the children and some by the adult choir, though often the choirs are combined. There are a few sections which are very vivacious. One such is the aforementioned circular poem, ‘Song for bringing a child into the world’, which is lively and joyous. Later on, ‘Summer song’ an Inuit poem which comprises the Adulthood section, is full of energy and colourful percussion.
I enjoyed Circlesong very much. It’s an imaginative and inventive score. I should imagine it’s rewarding to sing and that it goes down well with audiences. It’s certainly served very well here by the performers. Clearly, their conductor, Robert Simpson, has prepared them very well for this assignment. The instrumentalists are uniformly excellent.
This is a most enjoyable disc which I hope will increase awareness among other choirs of these rewarding pieces, especially Circlesong.
Release Date: January 21, 2022
Catalog Number: SIGCD703
Label: Signum Classics
Composer: Bob Chilcott
Conductor: Robert Simpson
Orchestra/Ensemble: Houston Treble Choir, Houston Chamber Choir