FAME Review: Berlin Voices - About Christmas
Berlin Voices - About Christmas

About Christmas

Berlin Voices

hänssler Classic CD98.609

Available from Amazon.com.

A review written for the Folk & Acoustic Music Exchange
by Mark S. Tucker

If you love true vocal music, whether completely a cappella or bedded down in a swingin' matrix that adds splash and vim to what's all-around an a cappella baseline, then this is the seasonal CD for you! There's so much here that has otherwise gone wanting for too long: echoes of Manhattan Transfer, the Swingle Singers, Sergio Mendes, the Nylons, Singers Unlimited, Lani Hall, Take 6, and the very small catalogue of releases that revel in what is accomplishable by a small concatenation of singers performing in pyrotechnic displays that enchant the ear, warm the heart, and beguile the mind, exercises in what is, truth be told, the modernization of the hoary but oh-so-missed chant tradition.

Naxos issued this absolute gem, and it completely reflects what are the company's trademarks: exquisite recording, refined discernment, and superior performance. The Berlin Voices ensemble is very popular in Germany, but, by virtue of this disc alone, it's well past time that esteem spread around the world. The skill and perfection of tone of these four singers is astonishing as they leap nimbly from stave to stave, each bar and measure filled to overflowing with nuance and invention. Trust me, this is the sort of thing the human voice was invented for, a museum piece of artfulness and, frankly, joy.

An instant classic, About Christmas is not going to be for conservative tight-asses, gimlet-eyed traditionalists, priggish religio's, or lackwitted mainstreamers, but for those of us who delight in expositions bursting with sheer delight, it's nothing less than a grail…and I now know what I want for Christmas: the rest of this ensemble's catalog. More, I'm hoping they issued a CD of pure a cappella tracks because the bonus cut on this one, a stripped version of Ich Sten an Deiner Krippen Hier, is drop-dead killer gorgeous. Roll over, de Machaut, and tell Pope Gregory the news!

Track List:

  • Joy to the world (Watts / Handel)
  • Angels we Have Heard on High (Chadwick / traditional)
  • Stille Nacht (Mohr / Wichern / Gruber)
  • It's Christmas all Over the World (Huh Martin)
  • Es Kommt ein Schiff, Geladen (traditional)
  • Kommet, Ihr Hirten (Riedell / Olmutz)
  • Medley: The First Noel / A Child is Born (traditional) / (Wilder / Jones)
  • Mary's Lullaby (Esther Kaiser)
  • Ich Sten an Deiner Krippen Hier (Gerhardt / Bach)
  • I Wonder as I Wander (John Jacob Niles)
  • Coventry Carol (Croo / traditional)
  • O Tannenbaum (Zarnack / Anschlutz / Volsweisse)
  • You Make It Feel like Christmas (Neil Diamond)
  • BONUS TRACK: Ich Sten an Deiner Krippen Hier (Gerhardt / Bach) (completely a cappella)

Edited by: David N. Pyles


Copyright 2010, Peterborough Folk Music Society.
This review may be reprinted with prior permission and attribution.
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