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Ronald E. Grames
Fanfare, March 2017

The recording does a very fine job of capturing both detail and an impressive sense of space and scale. There are many moments when the recorded brass, organ, percussion, and chorus raise goosebumps, as dependable a measure of fine engineering as I know. The musicianship is, as one would expect from this source, impeccable.

This is a Christmas CD to pull out when one wishes to be swept away by the grandeur of the season, and be reminded that the centuries-old glory of church music is still very much part of Christian worship, at least in some hands and in some places. Warmly recommended. © 2017 Fanfare Read complete review



Jerobear
Review Corner, December 2016

It’s a choral album but Whitbourn is adept at taking magnificent music and making it listener-friendly; this could be music from 500 years ago, contemplating the Christian message and enormity of eternity but in Whitbourn’s hands it’s palatable for modern ears.

Whitbourn loves medieval musical and he mixes his own pieces with seasonal favourites, drawing on research that found the original, simpler carols were later embellished by the Victorians.

Both epic and approachable, this will be enjoyed by anyone who likes choral music at Christmas (and other times of year) and wants something a little different. © 2016 Review Corner Read complete review



Ralph Graves
WTJU, December 2016

The Westminster Williamson Voices is a large choir, so there’s a certain softness to their sound. But the ensemble has a warm, creamy blend that’s well-suited to the music. And their articulation is virtually flawless. © 2016 WTJU Read complete review



Lisa Flynn
WFMT (Chicago), December 2016

James Whitbourn is a composer whose music is internationally admired for its direct connection with performers and audiences. Carolae is a fusion of American and English Christmas traditions, with Whitbourn’s love of medieval music shaping his arrangements of holiday favorites. © 2016 WFMT (Chicago)



Rad Bennett
RadsReferenceReviews, December 2016

There are always abundant choral holiday albums each and every year and many of them are excellent, but this year one towers over all the others. That one is Carolae – Music for Christmas, performed by the Westminster Williamson Voices chorus of Princeton, NJ, conducted by James Jordan with Daryl Robinson on organ, along with brass, percussion and other instrumental forces. There are some lovely arrangements here and a concluding Toccata on Vom Himkmel Hoch for solo organ written by Garth Edmundson that positively sizzles, but the main interest is Missa carolae by award winning composer James Whitbourn. The Six-movement work is interspersed with other arrangements and uses familiar carols in ways one might not expect but sound absolutely appropriate. Using drums and other percussion, Whitbourn turns many a well-known tune into an exciting processional—drum carols on steroids. The overall result is appealing, urgent, uplifting, and downright thrilling. Every single one of the singers and instrumentalists give their all. Each seems to be a virtuoso but is able to fit inconspicuously into a solid ensemble. The recording is a marvel. Every detail is easily heard and the tuttis, with their subwoofer friendly bass will lift you to the heights! Honest. © 2016 RadsReferenceReviews Read complete review



Jason Victor Serinus
Bay Area Reporter, December 2016

Carolae: Music for Christmas (Naxos) is a fitting showcase for the craft of Grammy-nominated English composer James Whitbourn (b. 1963). Several world premiere recordings, including the portentous “Veni et illumine,” accompany the disc’s centerpiece, the various Missa carolae. Medieval influences abound, as does a weighty musical sensibility that seems equally fit for a TV miniseries soundtrack or a Christmas procession for a long-forgotten King and Queen. © 2016 Bay Area Reporter Read complete review



Brian Wilson
MusicWeb International, December 2016

…this is just the thing for jaded palates: enjoyable arrangements but stopping well on the right side of sugar coating and sometimes demanding but not too demanding. The chief work, the Missa Carolae or Carol Mass, is a modern analogue of Charpentier’s wonderful Messe de Minuit, with each movement based on one or more Christmas tunes: for the Kyrie, it’s even the same tune that Charpentier used, Noël nouvelet. The other music is just as attractive. © 2016 MusicWeb International Read complete review




Infodad.com, December 2016

The performances are uniformly fine of the music by Whitbourn and others: the Westminster Williamson Voices are clear, enunciate well, and sing with suitable understanding and reverence. © 2016 Infodad.com Read complete review



David Denton
David's Review Corner, November 2016

For the fourth Naxos release of music by the British composer James Whitbourn, we have choral music written over the past twenty-five years related to Christmas. Born in 1963, Whitbourn has joined that group who are writing music aimed at a wide cross-section of those of a religious persuasion. Stylistically, it comes from the era of Vaughan Williams at the beginning of the twentieth century, with just a hint of the slow moving hypnotic quality that brought John Tavener to international acclaim. The over-riding factor comes from the attractive harmonic use of voices, and the fact that it is well within the technical orbit of amateur choral groups, its fresh-faced sounds attractive to singers. In modern terminology, he keeps to short sound-bites, most of the tracks on this disc just going both sides of four minutes, and are basically pleasing carols. There are familiar traditional tunes including the American originated I wonder as I wander; from medieval times the Coventry Carol, and the French carol Noel Nouvelet and the German In dulci jubilo used in the Missa carolae. There is much here that has been borrowed, with somewhat less that is original Whitbourn, though in Winter’s Wait and and The Magi’s Dream we enter his modern world. I particularly enjoy the Hodie to words by the famous tenor, Robert Tear, and the pure might of the Magnificat, the disc ending, rather strangely with an organ solo, Toccata on Vom Himmel Hoch, by Gareth Edmundson. The accompanying booklet gives the words that you will need, the Westminster Williamson Voices—a mixed choir of sixty-two voices on this disc—hailing from the Westminster Choir College in Princetown, New Jersey. It makes a very beautiful sound for its conductor, James Jordan, with plenty of impact when required. Something different for your Christmas listening. © 2016 David’s Review Corner





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