Chorus Angelicus,
Untraveled Worlds
(Pelagos, 2000)

Upon his departure from his position as organist and choirmaster of the Cathedral of St. John the Divine in 1989, Paul Halley settled in rural Connecticut, where he developed two choral projects: Gaudeamus, an adult ensemble, and Chorus Angelicus, a children's choir.

Any project involving children walks a fine line, often producing a result which comes across as hopelessly precious or unnaturally sophisticated. Such is not the case with Chorus Angelicus and Untraveled Worlds, a beautifully executed compilation of sacred, traditional and original music from around the world.

The children are accompanied on various tracks by Halley (keyboards), Allan Dean (trumpet), Mary Rowell (violin) and Jamey Haddad (percussion). The accompaniment, when present, supports the singers perfectly. It doesn't overshadow them, yet it still adds drama and accent to the performance.

Such is the case with the opening and title track, "Untraveled Worlds," part of Tennyson's poem "Ulysses" set to original music by Halley. It begins with percussion and piano, then the violin makes an urgent driving entrance before the chorus begins. The violin and percussion continue to tie the sections together. It is a bold and assertive opening to the CD.

The chorus travels around the world, performing songs from a variety of countries, from Finland and "Who Can Sail" to the "The Cherubic Hymn" from Russia to "Niska Banja" from Serbia and "Nepusk vejdi" from Lithuania. Particularly memorable are "Mbiri Kuna Mwari," a Shona "Gloria" from South Africa, Poulenc's "Ave Maria," "The Grey Selchie," a traditional Scottish song, and "The Song of Wandering Aengus," a poem by William Butler Yeats set to a traditional Irish melody and arranged by Halley. The closing song, "Away From the Roll of the Sea," is a lovely lilting song from Canada which brings the journey to a restful close.

Two of the young singers are soloists for Andrew Lloyd Weber's "Pie Jesu," often recognized as Charlotte Church's signature song. The two sopranos, Elena Barrett and Emma Clune, give a luminous performance, pure and sweet, without artifice.

The selections are varied and challenging but not beyond the ability of the chorus. They deliver a polished and heartfelt performance from beginning to end. It is clear that Halley respects his singers and that he has a remarkable talent for bring out the best in them.

For an unparalleled and truly angelic experience, journey to Untraveled Worlds with Chorus Angelicus.

[ by Donna Scanlon ]
Rambles: 5 January 2002

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