Patricia Van Ness composer
Cappella Clausura | Amelia LeClair director
German philosopher Immanuel Kant defined the Sublime as “beauty accompanied by awe” – a thought which perfectly encapsulates the spirit of Cappella Clausura’s second PARMA release, BIRDS OF THE PSALMS. Evocatively conducted by Amelia LeClair, the ensemble interprets a magnificent choral repertoire spanning six centuries.
Indeed, this Boston-area choir performs with such intimate dedication that the individual voices morph into a single body of sound, leading the listener deeply into the heart of the music itself. This unification of vocal expression, flawless and soulfully upheld throughout, unveils the timelessness of all works performed – from 17th-century favorite Henry Purcell’s Hear My Prayer to contemporary composer Patricia Van Ness’s eponymous choral cycle Birds of the Psalms.
The latter, a selection of ten psalms scored for a cappella choir, constitutes the album’s focal point. Van Ness explores the pure and the divine in carefully constructed, aesthetically crafted soundscapes. Conducted by Amelia LeClair, Birds of the Psalms runs the gamut of the human condition from profound serenity to fervent longing. While Psalm 104 conveys a sophisticated tenderness, Psalm 54 and Psalm 148 examine downright primal realms of tonality, featuring grand melodic lines interspersed with strong rhythmic contrasts. The opening track, Psalm 91, develops into a spacious musical tapestry from but a single initial voice.
Unsurprisingly, Van Ness’s gracious compositions pair well with the established choral repertoire. Purcell’s aforementioned classic, haunting and beautiful in its own right, is performed with dolorous intensity, rendering the final resolution nothing short of breathtaking. Tchaikovsky’s ethereal Svete Tihiy evokes the natural appeal of birdsong, while Rachmaninoff’s Blagoslovi, its background of male vocals juxtaposed with a single alto in what could best be described as a spiritual bel canto, sounds positively out of this world.
Painstakingly recorded, mixed, and mastered, this album draws the listener into crystal-clear, extraordinary scenery, transcending the limitations of the modern secular existence. If there is a musical way to intuit Kant’s ideas of the truly Sublime – this is it.