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April 12, 2005

Just what the soul ordered

Chicago Sun Times (IL)

Tavener turned 60 last year, but his consuming focus on a cappella religious music makes his haunting, slow-moving chants all-but-required repertoire for British choral groups. With its Gothic arches and relatively small scale, Fourth Presbyterian Church at Delaware and Michigan is an attractive concert venue for choral music. Vocal lines have space to bloom, but not so much space that they melt into aural mush. The Sixteen displayed a lovely blend of discipline and freedom that combined a clear purity of tone with deep expressiveness. The women's voices were a consistently bright thread throughout the evening, but their tone was always rounded and dulcet, never turning harsh in even the highest soprano registers.

These British singers worked miracles with Tippett's settings of five American spirituals from the oratorio "A Child of Our Time." From "Deep River'' to "Go down, Moses,'' they had the smoky languor and yearning syncopations of the Deep South down cold. Even with its dashes of unexpected dissonance, Tallis' "Sancte Deus" unfolded with gentle serenity. In the final work, the seamless, rough-hewn drone of The Sixteen's basses gave Tavener's "Song for Athene" a sense of moving inexorably, and ultimately with joy, to the very throne of God.

Posted by acapnews at April 12, 2005 12:12 AM