You know you're a choir of genuine stature when composers start writing settings of the Orthodox liturgy just for you. Led by two Greek Orthodox clergy, this new look at The Divine Liturgy of St. John Chrysostom is nothing short of ravishing. The beautifully recorded sound allows you to hear just how good these singers are at bringing real meaning to the text, and of course the clergymen are deeply reverent, but also – and this is important to me, if no one else – also exceptionally musical.
Cappella Romana's specialty on disc is the religious music of both the East and West, and this is Eastern music at its finest. The text is ages old, but this music is a welcome nod to both old and new. Without ever losing sight of the rich traditions the music holds, Dr. Zes combines the ancient chants and intonations of the Orthodox liturgy with some thoroughly modern choral harmonics. The result is pretty magical, especially as Zes never loses sight of the meanings held within the words he sets before us. The organ accompaniment is tasteful and well-written, but the a cappella singing is by far the most rewarding part of the disc. Good thing too, because there is a ton of it. There are some very traditional elements here, but some original melodies are present and so are some allusions to great Greek American settings of the past.
Really, anyone who cares about religious music – or great choral music generally – needs to purchase this exceptional release, both as a testament to the longevity of a great art form, and as evidence of the continuing evolution of religious music and its influences as the world changes. We are very fortunate to have a choir like Cappella Romana to share this with us; the world is a better place as a result.
Copyright © 2014, Brian Wigman