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Release Date: May 22, 2020
Catalog #: NV6287
Format: Digital & Physical


James Primosch composer
The Crossing | Donald Nally conductor

GRAMMY-winning chamber choir The Crossing is back with their latest installment in a multi-album series with Navona Records. CARTHAGE comes on the heels of the 2020 GRAMMY-nominated album THE ARC IN THE SKY, released last summer. In this latest offering, artistic director Donald Nally leads the choir through six striking pieces by composer James Primosch that confront the most elemental questions of Western philosophy.

CARTHAGE opens with Journey, a solemn meditation in which the men of The Crossing chant text based on the work of 13th-century monk and mystic Meister Eckhart: “There is a journey you must take./It is a journey without destination./There is no map./Your soul will lead you./And you can take nothing with you.” Next comes the title track, Carthage, on prose by Marilynne Robinson from her novel Housekeeping, which employs the devastated city of Carthage as a metaphor for desire and imagination: “For to wish for a hand on one’s hair is all but to feel it.” Composer James Primosch evokes images of once-fertile fields now salted and wasted, with Nally teasing out the dynamic subtleties of a work that is nevertheless full of hope and rebirth.

Following is Mass for the Day of St. Thomas Didymus. Here, four soloists sing the Latin Mass texts, while the main choir sings Denise Levertov’s cycle of poems which gives the work its title. In pulling together these texts, Primosch celebrates the feast of St. Thomas Didymus—better known as “doubting Thomas”—plumbing the depths between unbelief and faith in which true spirituality so often resides. The ancient texts are strangely illuminated by the highs and lows of Levertov’s journey. The album closes with One with the Darkness, One with the Light, a setting of poetry by Wendell Berry. True to its title, the music employs cascading harmonic textures to explore the tension between light and dark, waking and sleeping, life and death.

CARTHAGE is a cohesive artwork that considers the most fundamental questions of human existence with the reverent wonder of monastic mysticism. While the music does not attempt to answer these unanswerable questions, it offers a sense of fellowship with the thinkers who pondered them long before, as well as with the singers whose voices fill this album.


Hear the full album on YouTube

Track Listing & Credits

# Title Composer Performer
01 Journey James Primosch The Crossing | Donald Nally, conductor 3:45
02 Carthage James Primosch The Crossing | Donald Nally, conductor 10:47
03 Mass for the Day of St. Thomas Didymus: I. Kyrie James Primosch The Crossing | Donald Nally, conductor 6:27
04 Mass for the Day of St. Thomas Didymus: II. Gloria James Primosch The Crossing | Donald Nally, conductor 3:31
05 Mass for the Day of St. Thomas Didymus: III. Credo James Primosch The Crossing | Donald Nally, conductor 5:45
06 Mass for the Day of St. Thomas Didymus: IV. Sanctus James Primosch The Crossing | Donald Nally, conductor 5:52
07 Mass for the Day of St. Thomas Didymus: V. Agnus Dei James Primosch The Crossing | Donald Nally, conductor 5:13
08 Spiralling Ecstatically James Primosch The Crossing | Donald Nally, conductor 5:02
09 Two Arms of the Harbor James Primosch The Crossing | Donald Nally, conductor 4:53
10 One with the Darkness, One with the Light James Primosch The Crossing | Donald Nally, conductor 2:27

The Crossing
Katy Avery  .  Nathaniel Barnett  2   .  Jessica Beebe  3 4 6
Kelly Ann Bixby  2 7   .  Karen Blanchard  7
Steven Bradshaw  1   .  Colin Dill  .  Micah Dingler
Robert Eisentrout  3, 6, 7   .  Ryan Fleming  .  Joanna Gates
Dimitri German  1   .  Steven Hyder  .  Michael Jones  3
Anika Kildegaard  .  Heidi Kurtz  .  Chelsea Lyons
Maren Montalbano  2, 3   .  Rebecca Myers  .  Becky Oehlers
Daniel Schwartz  4   .  Rebecca Siler  1, 5  .  Daniel Spratlan
Elisa Sutherland  1 5 6    Daniel Taylor  4

1  schola quartet throughout  Mass for the Day of St. Thomas Didymus
2   solo in  Credo
3   solo in  Sanctus
4   solo in  Agnus Dei
5   solo in  Two Arms of the Harbor
6   solo in  Carthage
7   solo in  spiralling ecstatically

Donald Nally Conductor
Kevin Vondrak Assistant Conductor & Artistic Associate
John Grecia Keyboards
Hunter Gregory, Conner Newkam-Ulrich  &  Jeremy Edelstein Production Assistants

This album was recorded July 9-13, 2019 at The High Point at St. Peter’s in the Great Valley, Malvern PA

Recording Produced by Donald Nally & Paul Vazquez
Recording Engineered by Paul Vazquez & Dante Portella
Editing, Mixing, and Mastering by Paul Vazquez
Associate Producer Kevin Vondrak
Artistic Assistant Jeremy Edelstein
Album artwork by Steven Bradshaw

THIS RECORDING IS MADE POSSIBLE  through a generous gift of the New York Community Trust, with the kind help of Fr. John Kamas, S. S. S., as well as the continued support of an anonymous donor.

THE COMPOSER ACKNOWLEDGES  John Harbison’s generous invitation to compose for Emmanuel Church, without which this body of work would not have been created.

Our artists, composers, audience, friends, and supporters; the staff and congregation at our home, The Presbyterian Church of Chestnut Hill; those who open their homes to our artists: Rev. Cindy Jarvis, David and Rebecca Thornburgh, Jeff and Liz Podraza, Rebecca Siler, Corbin Abernathy and Andrew Beck, and Bill and Sandy Bixby. Special thanks to Thomas Kasdorf for support of this project.

Steven Bradshaw
Micah Dingler
Tuomi Forrest - Vice President
Joanna Gates
Mary D. Hangley
Lisa Husseini
Cynthia A. Jarvis
Mary Kinder Loiselle
Michael M. Meloy
Donald Nally - Conductor
Eric Owens
Pam Prior - Treasurer
Andrew Quint
Kim Shiley - President
Carol Loeb Shloss - Secretary
John Slattery
Elizabeth Van de Water

Jonathan Bradley, Executive Director
Shannon McMahon, Operations Manager
Alexandra McFadden, Operations Manager
Kevin Vondrak, Assistant Conductor & Artistic Associate
Paul Vazquez, Sound Designer
Jeremy Edelstein, Production Assistant
Mitchell Bloom, Grant Manager
Elizabeth Dugan, Bookkeeper
Ryan Strand, Administrative Assistant

The Crossing is represented by Alliance Artist Management

Executive Producer Bob Lord

Executive A&R Sam Renshaw
A&R Director Brandon MacNeil

VP, Audio Production Jeff LeRoy
Audio Director Lucas Paquette

VP, Design & Marketing Brett Picknell
Art Director Ryan Harrison
Design Edward A. Fleming
Publicity Patrick Niland, Sara Warner

Artist Information

James Primosch


When honoring him with its Goddard Lieberson Fellowship, the American Academy of Arts and Letters noted that “A rare economy of means and a strain of religious mysticism distinguish the music of James Primosch… Through articulate, transparent textures, he creates a wide range of musical emotion.”

The Crossing


The Crossing is a professional chamber choir conducted by Donald Nally, dedicated to performing new music and committed to addressing social, environmental, and political issues through nearly 180 commissioned premieres. Collaborating with prestigious ensembles and venues like the New York and Los Angeles Philharmonics, Park Avenue Armory, Lincoln Center, and Carnegie Hall, The Crossing has released 33 albums, earning three GRAMMY® Awards for Best Choral Performance and multiple nominations. The Crossing is Musical American 2024 Ensemble of The Year.

Donald Nally

Donald Nally


Donald Nally collaborates with creative artists, leading orchestras, and art museums to make new works for choir that address social and environmental issues. He has commissioned over 180 works and, with The Crossing, has 29 recordings, with two Grammy Awards and eight nominations. Nally has served as chorus master at the Lyric Opera of Chicago, Welsh National Opera, Opera Philadelphia, and the Spoleto Festival in Italy.


Music by James Primosch (b.1956)
Words by Jon M. Sweeney and Mark S. Burrows, after a text by Meister Eckhart (1260-1328)
Commissioned by The Crossing and Donald Nally. Premiered by Emmanuel Music, Ryan Turner, conducting, at Emmanuel Church, Boston MA, December 21, 2019.

There is a journey you must take.
It is a journey without destination.
There is no map.
Your soul will lead you.
And you can take nothing with you.

–From Meister Eckhart’s Book of the Heart: Meditations for the Restless Soul © 2017 by Jon M. Sweeney and Mark S. Burrows, used with permission from Hampton Roads Publishing c/o Red Wheel Weiser LLC, Newburyport MA (

Music by James Primosch
Words by Marilynne Robinson (b. 1943)
Commissioned by The Crossing and Donald Nally and premiered October 27, 2018 at the Presbyterian Church of Chestnut Hill, Philadelphia PA

a note from the composer:
I first came upon the text for Carthage from the novel Housekeeping by Marilynne Robinson, when it was quoted in Christian Wiman’s book My Bright Abyss. Wiman rightly speaks of the text as being “of consummate clarity and beauty,” going on to say how it “so perfectly articulate[s] not only the sense of absence... but also bestow[s] on it an energy and agency, a prayerful but indefinable promise: ‘the world will be made whole.’” It was this combination of absence and promise, lack and fullness, that attracted me and led me to music of sober reflection and wild joy.


Imagine a Carthage sown with salt, and all the sowers gone, and the seeds lain however long in the earth, till there rose finally in vegetable profusion leaves and trees of rime and brine. What flowering would there be in such a garden? Light would force each salt calyx to open in prisms, and to fruit heavily with bright globes of water — peaches and grapes are little more than that, and where the world was salt there would be greater need of slaking. For need can blossom into all the compensations it requires. To crave and to have are as like as a thing and its shadow. For when does a berry break upon the tongue as sweet as when one longs to taste it, and when is the taste refracted into so many hues and savors of ripeness and earth, and when do our senses know any thing so utterly as when we lack it? And here again is foreshadowing — the world will be made whole. For to wish for a hand on one’s hair is all but to feel it. So whatever we may lose, very craving gives it back to us again. Though we dream and hardly know it, longing, like an angel, fosters us, smooths our hair, and brings us wild strawberries.

–Excerpt from Housekeeping by Marilynne Robinson. Copyright © 1981 by Marilynne Robinson. Reprinted by permission of Farrar, Straus and Giroux, LLC.

Music by James Primosch
Words by Denise Levertov (1923-1997) and from the Latin Ordinary of the Mass

Commissioned by The Crossing and Donald Nally, and made possible with support from the Knight Foundation. Premiered June 28, 2014 at the Icebox Project Space at CraneArts, Philadelphia PA

a note from the composer:
This work is part of a long tradition of Mass settings that juxtapose additional poems with the standard Latin texts; Requiems of Benjamin Britten and Christopher Rouse are recent examples, though the practice of poetic insertions originated many centuries ago. I have assigned the Latin texts (excerpts in the case of the “Credo”) to a group of four solo singers while the main choir sings excerpts from a cycle of poems by Denise Levertov inspired by the Mass texts. The Latin settings are in the manner of various forms of liturgical music, and include quotations of a Bach chorale and Gregorian chant.

The title of my piece is that of the Levertov cycle. St. Thomas Didymus is the apostle Thomas, with the designation “Didymus” meaning “the twin.” Thomas is informally known as “doubting Thomas” because of his insistence on seeing and touching Jesus before he would believe in the Resurrection. Upon subsequently seeing Christ, he acknowledged him as “My Lord and my God.” A Mass honoring St. Thomas is a Mass that honors the juxtaposition of doubt and belief that is the basis of life in pursuit of the divine. The simple pair of twin statements in Levertov’s reflection on the “Credo” is the pivot of the work:

“I believe and
interrupt my belief with
doubt. I doubt and
interrupt my doubt with belief.”

Note: ellipses (.....) indicate where cuts have been made in the texts

O deep unknown, guttering candle,
beloved nugget lodged
in the obscure heart’s
last recess,
have mercy upon us.

We choose from the past, tearing morsels to feed
pride or grievance.
We live in terror
of what we know:

death, death, and the world’s
death we imagine
and cannot imagine,
we who may be
the first and last witness.

We live in terror
of what we do not know,
in terror of not knowing,
of the limitless, through which freefalling
forever, our dread
sinks and sinks,
of the violent closure of all

Yet our hope lies
in the unknown,
in our unknowing.

O deep, remote unknown,
O deep, unknown,
Have mercy upon us.


Kyrie eleison.
Christe eleison.
Kyrie eleison.

Lord, have mercy
Christ, have mercy
Lord, have mercy

Praise the wet snow
falling early.
Praise the shadow
my neighbor’s chimney casts on the tile roof
even this gray October day that should, they say,
have been golden.
the invisible sun burning beyond
the white cold sky, giving us
light and the chimney’s shadow
god or the gods, the unknown,
that which imagined us, which stays
our hand,
our murderous hand,
and give us
in the shadow of death,
our daily life,
and the dream still
of goodwill, of peace on earth.
flow and change, night and
the pulse of day.


Gloria in excelsis Deo. Et in terra pax hominibus bonae voluntatis.

Laudamus te; benedicimus te; adoramus te; glorificamus te. Gratias agimus tibi propter magnam gloriam tuam.

Domine Deus, Rex coelestis, Deus Pater omnipotens. Domine Fili unigenite Jesu Christe. Domine Deus, Agnus Dei, Filius Patris.

Qui tollis peccata mundi, miserere nobis. Qui tollis peccata mundi, suscipe deprecationem nostram. Qui sedes ad dexteram Patris, O miserere nobis.

Quoniam tu solus Sanctus, tu solus Dominus, tu solus altissimus, Jesu Christe. Cum Sancto Spiritu in gloria Dei Patris.


Glory be to God in the highest. And on earth peace to men of good will. We praise You; we bless You; we adore You; we glorify You. We give You thanks for Your great glory.

Lord God, Heavenly King, God the Father Almighty. O Lord Jesus Christ, the only begotten Son. Lord God, Lamb of God, Son of the Father.

You that take away the sins of the world, have mercy upon us. You that take away the sins of the world, receive our prayer. You that sit at the right hand of the Father, have mercy upon us.

For You only are the Holy One, You alone are the Lord, You alone are the Most High, Jesus Christ. Together with the Holy Ghost in the glory of God the Father.


I believe the earth
exists, and
in each minim mote
of its dust the holy
glow of thy candle.
unknown I know,
thou spirit,
lover of making, of the
wrought letter,
wrought flower,
iron, deed, dream.
Dust of the earth,
help thou my
unbelief. Drift,
gray become gold, in the beam of
vision. I believe and
interrupt my belief with
doubt. I doubt and
interrupt my doubt with belief. Be,
belovéd, threatened world.
Each minim
the ordinary glow
of common dust in ancient sunlight.
Be, that I may believe. Amen.


Credo in unum Deum; Patrem omnipotentem, factorem coeli et terrae
Credo in unum Dominum Jesum Christum
Crucifixus etiam pro nobis
Credo in Spiritum Sanctum

Et expecto resurrectionem mortuorum et vitam venturi sæculi. Amen.

[I believe in one God; the Father almighty, maker of heaven and earth
I believe in one Lord, Jesus Christ
Who was crucified for us
I believe in the Holy Spirit
I await the resurrection of the dead and the life of the world to come. Amen.]

Powers and principalities—all the gods,
angels and demigods, eloquent animals, oracles,
storms of blessing and wrath—

all that Imagination
has wrought, has rendered,
striving, in throes of epiphany—

naming, forming—to give
to the Vast Loneliness
a hearth, a locus—

send forth their song towards
the harboring silence, uttering
the ecstasy of their names, the multiform
name of the Other, the known
Unknown, unknowable:

Blesséd is that which comes in the name of the spirit,
that which bears
the spirit within it.

The name of the spirit is written
in woodgrain, windripple, crystal,

in crystals of snow, in petal, leaf,
moss and moon, fossil and feather,

blood, bone, song, silence,
very word of
very word,
flesh and

Blesséd is that which utters
its being,
the stone of stone,
the straw of straw,
for there
spirit is.
be the dust. From dust the world
utters itself. We have no other
hope, no knowledge.
The word
chose to become
flesh. In the blur of flesh
we bow, baffled.


Sanctus, Sanctus, Sanctus, Dominus Deus Sabaoth.
Pleni sunt coeli et terra gloria tua.
Osanna in excelsis.
Benedictus qui venit
in nomine Domini.
Osanna in excelsis.

Holy, Holy, Holy Lord, God of hosts.
Heaven and earth are full of your glory
Hosanna in the highest.
Blessed is he who comes
in the name of the Lord
Hosanna in the highest.

What terror lies concealed
in strangest words, O lamb
of God that taketh away
the Sins of the World:

God then,
encompassing all this, is
defenceless? Omnipotence
has been tossed away, reduced
to a wisp of damp wool

must protect this perversely weak
animal, whose muzzle’s nudgings
suppose there is milk to be found in us?
Must hold to our icy hearts
a shivering God?

So be it.
Come, rag of pungent
dim star.
Let’s try
if something human still
can shield you,
of remote light.


Agnus Dei,
qui tollis peccata mundi,
miserere nobis.
Agnus Dei,
qui tollis peccata mundi,
dona nobis pacem.

Lamb of God
who takes away the sins of the world,
have mercy on us.
Lamb of God
who takes away the sins of the world,
grant us peace.
–“Mass for the Day of St. Thomas Didymus” by Denise Levertov. From  Candles in Babylon , copyright ©1982 by Denise Levertov. Reprinted by permission of New Directions Publishing Corp.

Music by James Primosch
Words by e.e. cummings (1894-1962)
Premiered by Emmanuel Music, Craig Smith conducting, at Emmanuel Church, Boston MA, December 6, 1998.

from spiralling ecstatically this

proud nowhere of earth’s most prodigious night
blossoms a newborn babe: around him, eyes
—gifted with every keener appetite
than mere unmiracle can quite appease—
humbly in their imagined bodies kneel
(over time space doom dream while floats the whole

perhapsless mystery of paradise)

mind without soul may blast some universe
to might have been, and stop ten thousand stars
but not one heartbeat of this child; nor shall
even prevail a million questionings
against the silence of his mother’s smile

—whose only secret all creation sings

– from spiralling ecstatically this  by e.e. cummings © 1962 Harcourt Brace Jovanovich. Used by permission.

music by James Primosch
words by Thomas Merton (1915-1968)
Premiered by Emmanuel Music, Ryan Turner conducting, at Emmanuel Church, Boston MA, May 1, 2011

I dreamt I was lost in a great city and was walking “toward the center” without quite knowing where I was going. Suddenly I came to a dead end, but on a height, looking at a great bay, an arm of the harbor. I saw a whole section of the city spread out before me on hills covered with light snow, and realized that, though I had far to go, I knew where I was: because in this city there are two arms of the harbor and they help you to find your way, as you are always encountering them.

–from  Conjectures of a Guilty Bystander  by Thomas Merton, copyright © 1965, 1966 by the Abbey of Gethsemani. Used with permission of the Merton Legacy Trust.

music by James Primosch
words by Wendell Berry (b. 1934)
Premiered by Emmanuel Music, Craig Smith conducting, at Emmanuel Church, Boston MA, May 14, 2006

At night make me one with the darkness.
In the morning make me one with the light.
When I rise up, let me rise joyful like a bird.
When I fall, let me fall without regret, like a leaf.
Let me wake in the night and hear it raining and go back to sleep.

–Excerpted from “Prayers and Sayings of the Mad Farmer” in the volume  Collected Poems  by Wendell Berry © 1970, 1984 Farrar, Strauss and Giroux. Used with permission.


Mass for the Day of St. Thomas Didymus (excerpt)

James Primosch