Monday, April 13, 2009

When a newcomer begins to explore choir music it’s important to remember that just because we don’t recognize the name of a composer or a composition it doesn’t mean that we won’t like it. Instead of keeping to only the more well known figures like Bach and Mozart I think it is more rewarding to branch out.

People who have grown up in the Catholic church were probably introduced to names like Palestrina, Poulenc and Parry at an early age but they were new names to me, and now I like them. Truthfully, I had never heard of Franck, Stanford or Elgar before I started getting into all of this, but now I enjoy their music all the time.

Frequently, if I’m not excited by a song or CD that I’m hearing for the first time, it will grow on me and often become a favorite if I just listen a few more times and let my taste grow and catch up.

Music makes learning fun (I wish I had known that when I was in school) and we can learn about more than music. By being curious about the composers and singers, and looking for information about them, we get exposed to history, geography, literature and more.
Plus, if you drop names like Franck, Stanford and Elgar at a dinner party everyone will think you are really smart.

I learned some new things from a new CD that I got from the Riga Dome Boy’s Choir (sometimes spelled Riga Dom) who are from Riga, Latvia, the home of the Riga Dome cathedral.
This CD is titled Marlindendur, which is the name of a poem by Icelandic poet Jóhann Hjálmarsson. It means a malevolent spirit or witch from Iceland.

The cover says that it “… describes an Icelander experiencing his present through senses suffused with the deep violent past of Iceland - especially the spiritual and social foundations described in the Saga of the People of Eyri.”
That sounds pretty high-brow but the music itself is easy to like.

The singing is amazingly good and so is the music by the Baltic Philharmonic Chamber orchestra. I don’t know when I’ve heard singing and music blend so well and at times it’s hard to tell what is voice and what is violin. The poem may be about folklore tales but the music is modern and really good.

One of the tales from the saga is told in English about Kjartan, a boy with extraordinary gifts of civilization:
I saw a seal poke his head up through the floor,
I saw a half moon fly from door to door,
I saw a boy in the blood pools by the trees,
A singing skull said that boy is me.


  1. I agree with your statements though I do have my favorites within the "Well Known" composers. For example, I like Faure's and Webber's Pie Jesu the best. And you can't better Bach's Ave Maria. Last but not least Franck's Panis Angelicus is just devine.

  2. There are a lot of classics that I never seem to get tired of hearing. Franck's Panis Angelicus is wonderful but he has another song that I love too. Allelia is track 7 on the Boys of King's College Choir, Cambridge CD called Heavenly Voices. I listen to it every Sunday. I wish I could find the lyrics for it.