Season of Light

Season of Light


Artist: Essential Voices USA, Judith Clurman (conductor)

Composers: Jacob Narverud, John Bucchino, Mykola Leontovych, David Chase, Jean Mouton, Stephen Schwartz, Benjamin Britten, Tedd Firth

Format: 1 CD


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Season of Light: Songs of Thanksgiving, Christmas, Chanukah, New Year
At the season of the winter solstice, light diminishes in our world. To counteract the onslaught of the darkness, traditional religions have created festivals to hold fast to a small steady flicker of illumination. Essential Voices USA (EVUSA) presents a sampler of music celebrating this effort to infuse light and joy into the holiday season. We go from Thanksgiving, to Christmas, to Chanukah and to the New Year, with both new music and traditional carols; an emotional journey through the holiday season. 

Composer Jacob Narverud (b. 1986) composed a piece for this Season of Light recording. He responded with a two-stanza poem inspired by the title of the recording, and a brief a cappella work for mixed voices. His heartwarming and melodic style asks us to stop and reflect as we anticipate the beginning of holiday time in late November. 

John Bucchino (b. 1952) conjures up the love and gratitude that we feel at Thanksgiving in his song “Grateful.” Originally written in 1995, for solo voice with piano, here for this recording it receives a new treatment for mixed voices and piano from Ryan Nowlin (b. 1978).

Next, December ushers in the sounds of Christmas. The holiday surrounds us, as bells ring in the season all over—in streets, in stores, in concert halls, and in churches. First, EVUSA sings the familiar and uplifting “Carol of the Bells” by Mykola Leontovych (1877-1921) in the a cappella arrangement and English translation by Peter J. Wilhousky (1902-1978). 

David Chase’s (b. 1964) arrangement of the English carol, “God Rest Ye,” (aka “God Rest You Merry Gentlemen”), commissioned by EVUSA for this recording and scored for mixed chorus and piano, has a recurring rhythmic figure in the accompaniment that infects us with the joy of the season. We continue on to remember the true sense of the season’s holiness as we present a serene polyphonic setting of Jean Mouton’s (1459-1522) “Ave Maria,” from the French Renaissance.

Another invocation of light occurs as the Jewish community kindles candles to celebrate the Festival of Chanukah. This holiday commemorates the ancient victory over an enemy that tried to deprive Jews of religious freedom. Stephen Schwartz (b. 1948) and lyricist Steven Young (b. 1965) transport us into another world in their uplifting piece, “The Chanukah Song” (“We Are Lights”).

English composer Benjamin Britten (1913–1976) expresses a serene hope in his piece “A New Year Carol,” scored for unison chorus and piano. The piece, originally written for children, is from Friday Afternoons, a collection of twelve songs by Britten, composed from 1933–35. He wrote it for the pupils of Clive House School, Prestatyn (Wales), where Britten’s brother, Robert, was headmaster. The text is anonymous.

We end with Tedd Firth’s (b. 1976) new year “carol” in a new jazz arrangement of “Auld Lang Syne.” The song, with text by Robert Burns, is traditionally used to bid farewell to the old year and sung at the stroke of midnight. 

Judith Clurman’s Essential Voices USA (EVUSA) is one of New York’s preeminent choral ensembles; it performs in many of the city’s iconic venues and events and records and premieres works by America’s finest composers and lyricists. Regularly on stage with the New York Pops in its Carnegie Hall subscription series, televised on NBC’s July 4th Macy’s 2014 Spectacular Fireworks and the Rockefeller Center Tree Lighting in 2011 and 2012, the ensemble comprises a talented roster of seasoned professionals and auditioned volunteers, dynamically fitted to the unique needs of each project. Among other national highlights, EVUSA participated in the 2013 Presidential Inaugural activities and held a month-long residency at National Public Radio.

Track List

Music & Lyrics Jacob Narverud
1. Season of Light 2:31

Music & Lyrics John Bucchino (arr. Ryan Nowlin)
2. Grateful 5:05

Mykola Leontovych (English text & arr. Peter J. Wilhousky)
3. Carol of the Bells 1:20

Traditional English Carol (arr. David Chase)
4. God Rest Ye 3:46

Jean Mouton
5. Ave Maria 2:12

Music Stephen Schwartz, Lyrics Steve Young (arr. Ryan Nowlin)
6. The Chanukah Song (We Are Lights) 4:27

Benjamin Britten (Lyrics Anon.)
7. A New Year Carol 2:12

Traditional Folk Song (Lyrics Robert Burns, arr. Tedd Firth)
8. Auld Lang Syne 2:36

Total time: 24:08
Release date: November 18, 2016
UPC: 053479700629

Quotes & Reviews

Few recordings have the capacity to transcend cultural and religious traditions—yet conductor Judith Clurman and her angelic chorus Essential Voices USA have accomplished such a feat…

All of the tracks (except Ave Maria) are accompanied by pianist Lee Musiker in a delicate and deeply feeling manner and Essential Voices USA is at the top of their game.

Ryan Leeds, Manhattan Digest

…while some might peg it as a Holiday music album, it is actually much, much more. 

Sherri Rase, [Q]onStage

The members of EVUSA do exquisite work...
— Shoshana Greenberg, The Huffington Post

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