There are two major names on the block regarding male vocal ensembles: San Francisco's Chanticleer and Minneapolis' Cantus. The latter releases A Harvest Home, a collection of Autumn pastoral affairs celebrating the traditional season of Thanksgiving. This follows last year's release of Songs of a Czech: Dvorak and Janacek for Men's Voices (Cantus, 2013), a fine if narrowly focused affair. With the Christmas holiday market clotted with recordings, it made perfect sense of Cantus to branch out into the anticipatory period before to celebrate Fall in all its kind and gentle glory.
Programming for such a recording is beautifully wide-open in that almost any pastoral rhyme. The program is tall and wide, ranging from the 18th to the 21st Century. Necessarily, a wealth of these songs come from the American Protestant Frontier, the disc opener, "For the Beauty of the Earth" being representative example. Tenor Paul John Rudoi's arrangement makes the piece a soft but sturdy message of stewardship and care. "Come, Ye Thankful People, Come" arrives in the same vein.
"We Gather Together" is tantalizing brief but dense in its beauty spirit. Tenor Aaron Humble's arrangement is lush and vibrant with a perceptible throb of life pulsing in it. The quartet of "Fiddle Tune," "Turkey in the Straw," "Simple Gifts" and "How Can I Keep From Singing" comprise the Americana core of the recording, manifesting in the musical-structural genius expressed in the traditional instrumental "Fiddle Tune" transformed into classical vocalese.
"Turkey in the Straw" comes off like an Aaron Copland patriotic seizure experienced by Charles Ives. It is beautiful and full-bodied like home brew right out of the kettle. "Simple Gifts" may enjoy its finest treatment in the hands of Cantus. It is a sumptuous harmonic and melodic feast that transcends as it transports the listener to a more simple and Romantic time.
Fall is the welcoming of Winter, it is a time of winding down and being grateful. Cantus has caught this promise from across the globe and distilled it into a seasonal offering that smells of apples and roast turkey. Please pass the cider...
Track Listing: For the Beauty of the Earth; The Pasture; America the Beautiful; Would You Harbor Me?; My Journey Yours; Come, Ye Thankful People, Come; We Gather Together; Holy Manna; Food, Glorious Food; Tyteberet; Trinklied; Fiddle Tune; Turkey in the Straw; Simple Gifts; How Can I Keep From Singing?; A Thankful Heart; Eventide.
Personnel: David Walton, tenor; Chris Foss, bass; Gary Ruschmann, tenor; Samuel Green, bass; Aaron Humble, tenor; Adam Reinwald, baritone; Paul John Rudoi, tenor; Shahzore Shah, tenor; Matthew Tintes, baritone.
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