A New York classical vocal ensemble that released its debut CD, I Sing the Birth, a meditation on the Christmas season, in early October is winning critical international acclaim.
A varied collection of unaccompanied music that spans nine centuries and nearly as many styles, I Sing the Birth is receiving praise in both the United States and United Kingdom, where it was first released.
Founded in 2006, New York Polyphony is rapidly gaining a reputation as one of the finest classical vocal ensembles of this generation. The four men, fusing elegant vocalism with expert ensemble singing, deliver dynamic, historically informed performances in a range of styles.
BBC Music Magazine named the CD "Editor's Christmas Choice" for 2007, and London's Classic FM Magazine awarded it 5 stars -- the highest rating -- and will feature two of the disc's tracks on its own December Cover CD.
Graeme Key of the magazine Choir & Organ has called it "a magical CD to return to often." The ensemble is the cover feature of its November/December edition. Stephen Eddins of All Music Guide described the music as a "wonderfully sensitive balance…The ensemble breathes as a single organism, and the blend, which can vary from perfect homogeneity to the subtle highlighting of a single voice, is marvelous."
Strong Anglican tradition
The members of New York Polyphony maintain active performing lives, each bringing a diversity of experience to their craft, but all have a rich grounding and experience in the Anglican liturgical tradition. All sing in the choir of St. Thomas' Episcopal Church, Fifth Avenue, New York.
From the simplicity of plainchant to the dense chromaticism of contemporary works, the group's sound is strong, unified and distinctive, critics say.
"The recording is entirely sacred music for Christmas, but I wouldn't describe it as tinselly," said alto Geoffrey Williams.
"Polyphony," according to the Online Etymology Dictionary, is the "multiplicity of sound" from the Greek polyphonia. It was from this that the group chose its name.
"We have four individual sounds," Williams said. "We don't try to sound like a choir. We are balanced, but not blended. We try to balance the sound. So much of the music benefits from bringing out all the ideas of the composer.
"Listeners will hear in the music a lot of individual identity. We create a single vision without compromising the four individual voices. We feel the music is much more passionate, the passion that folks felt in their faith."
Excerpts from New York Polyphony's CD can be heard here
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