Cherokee National Youth Choir,
Precious Memories
(Cherokee Nation, 2007)

Precious Memories is the sixth studio release by the Cherokee National Youth Choir. It is the first performed a cappella in its entirety, using only their God-given instruments for the hymns.

Cherokee Principal Chief Chad Smith established the Cherokee National Youth Choir to be ambassadors of the Cherokee Nation. He wanted them to demonstrate to the world that the Cherokee language and culture are alive and thriving. He envisioned this group helping to generate a "cultural renaissance" of Cherokee ways. Smith has seen his vision become a reality, as these young Cherokees from throughout their nation have developed a following all across America.

When I play this CD, I skip to "Orphan Child," play it, and then play the CD from the beginning. According to Smith, "Orphan Child" is the Cherokee's "national song of comfort." Many believe the song was sung during the Trail of Tears when the Cherokees buried a large portion of their nation between Alabama and Oklahoma. Although "Orphan Child" is one of the three songs on this album that were included in a previous release, in comparison I like this version much better. I honestly get goosebumps when I listen to it.

"Amazing Grace" and "One Drop of Blood" are the other two. "One Drop of Blood" is like a totally different song. The choir demonstrates their ability to reach heights with no loss of quality or fluctuation of volume and to hold notes for a while ... still without any sacrifice to tone or volume. The rhythm change-up is fantastic!

I wish I could be equally as positive about "Amazing Grace," but this one cannot compare to the version on Voices of the Creator's Children. It definitely did not need to be slowed down from its normal speed. It loses all of its "grace" when it drags along and there is nothing "amazing" about that.

"Precious Memories" showcases the sections of the choir individually, and then combines them into a beautiful harmony. "Beautiful Home" has a great call and answer with enough of a hesitation to produce a near-echo effect. It is one gorgeous song!

"How Beautiful Heaven Must Be" has some wonderful pulled notes and stepped-down notes with solid harmony. "It is Well with My Soul" is the other one that features considerable pulled notes. The difference is that it does it with the entire harmony instead of just one section, which is an amazing feat any time you hear it executed correctly. These young folks get the job done. It could not have been timed any better. It is auditory art!

If we look at the title, "What a Friend We Have in Jesus," we can easily see that it is an exclamation and would be punctuated with an exclamation mark if it were used as a sentence. It would be exclaimed with exuberance. This version was almost there, with great vibrato and full-bodied sound, but it needed pep and a faster beat.

"In the Sweet By and By" was even better with the components and technical aspects. Those tenor drops were astounding -- oddly enough, the word "delicious" came to mind; they really were a treat -- and the call and answer was extremely well-performed. The harmony was impeccable. Again, it needed to be picked up a bit.

My only complaints with this collection relate to the performance of hymns as dirges. Most people are not comforted by funeral music. They find it depressing. Studies have shown that physiological functions in many living organisms (people, animals, even plants) are affected by musical rhythms. Consistently, living organisms have responded more favorably to upbeat music than to slow, morbid, dirge-type music.

Precious Memories is a magnificent collection that demonstrates exceptional training and ability of this group of young Cherokees. They are a credit to their nation and a brilliant reflection of the tutelage of director Mary Kay Henderson. I hope we can look forward to see their continued growth within the music industry.

music review by
Alicia Karen Elkins

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