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A Liberal’s Libretto, December 2010

If your ears yearn for an album which includes some great choir tunes that bring to mind pomp, circumstance, fanfare and grand processionals—here’s the pick for you. Recorded live in 2009, Christmas with The Washington Chorus is a montage of traditional carols and other holiday favorites that is sure to make you smile. The album opens with a sprightly yet triumphant Angels We Have Heard on High as arranged by the Music Director of The Washington Chorus, Julian Wachner. Now I’m not going to lie to you Friendlies, Mr Wachner knows how to craft a great fanfare and his arrangements of Joy to the World and The First Nowell prove this beyond a reasonable doubt.

Phil Muse
Audio Video Club of Atlanta, December 2010

Christmas with the Washington Chorus (Dorian Recordings) is a really big-scale production involving more than just said 182-member chorus under Julian Wachner. It also has the participation of the 55 members of the Whitman Choir, Jeffrey Davidson, director; and the National Capitol Brass and Percussion plus an organist. This performance, recorded in concert on December 23, 2009 at the Swarthmore Center, has the virtues and drawbacks of a live recording, including possible sing-alongs in the opening and closing numbers. The 13 choral numbers plus a couple of instrumental flourishes include the usual suspects: Angels We Have Heard on High, Joy to the World, Still, Still, Still, The first Nowell, Good King Wenceslas, and the Hallelujah Chorus, though often with brass & percussion yours truly would consider “de trop” (as the French say). Still, it may be a perfect balm for late-season music listeners who are weary from too much holiday shopping and too much rich food and drink for the middle-aged constitution. Happily, the brass and percussion are not evident in as breathlessly beautiful a number as Come, O Come Emmanuel, where the women’s’ voices sound to good advantage, nor in Nino Lindo (Beautiful Child), the incredibly lovely Venezuelan carol that was for me the unexpected jewel of the program. And I agree wholeheartedly with the message of peace and consolation in The Dream Isaiah Saw, words we all need to hear after the ugliest midterm American elections in recent memory.

Stephen Eddins, October 2010

This is the third Christmas album from the GRAMMY® Award-winning Washington Chorus, a large mixed choir founded in 1961, but the first with conductor Julian Wachner. This is an ideal holiday album for listeners looking for traditional carols sung enthusiastically by a large group. The chorus is joined by the Whitman Choir, a high school group, and an ensemble of brass, percussion, organ, and harp. The instruments provide a full, almost orchestral sound, and provide a colorful and lively accompaniment. The chorus sings with a rich, full tone and infectious energy. The carols, with just a few exceptions, are Christmas standards that will be familiar to most listeners. A variety of illustrious choral conductors, including David Willcocks, Norman Luboff, and Wachner himself have created inventive and lively arrangements that never stray too far from the originals. The recording was made at a live performance in 2009, and that is evident in the sound quality. The brass is very present, but the chorus, in spite of its fullness and volume, seems somewhat distant. In the program notes, Wachner comments that the decision to retain the ambience of the actual performance, which includes audience participation in several of the carols, was intentional. The CD should appeal to fans of traditional Christmas music looking for a big choral sound, but who aren’t picky about having immaculate, perfectly balanced sound.

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