if there were water: MINAKAKIS Crossings Cycle
The Crossing, a chamber choir based in Philadelphia, goes where other such ensembles might fear to tread. Led by Donald Nally, the group has commissioned more than 70 works, including the two hypnotic scores featured on this disc. Sung a cappella, Stratis Minakakis’s Crossings Cycle and Gregory W Brown’s un/bodying/s make use of a spectrum of vocal techniques placed at the service of texts that evoke myriad images while challenging the performers’ artistic skills.
That the members of The Crossing rise to the occasion is not merely a given but also something of a phenomenon. Minakakis’s elegiac cycle is set to ancient Greek verses by Homer, Sophocles and Euripides and lines from TS Eliot’s The Waste Land (one of which gives the disc its title). Whatever the language, the Crossing singers sustain the hushed atmospheres and navigate the urgent and clamorous passages with consummate dexterity and control. The results are mesmerising, even after repeated hearings.
Brown’s devotion to ecological issues lies at the heart of un/bodying/s, set to poems by Todd Hearon and focused on the Quabbin Reservoir in western Massachusetts. The four movements embrace a range of styles, at turns traditional – the opening ‘The Meeting of the Waters’ incorporates music by the early American composer Jeremiah Ingalls – and contemporary, mostly with accessible tonal roots. The writing is lively and affecting, full of exhilarating lines amid pungent details.
Nally shapes seamless performances of both works, drawing choral subtleties that illuminate the distinctive sound worlds conjured by two exceptionally imaginative composers. The disc is an engrossing addition to The Crossing’s growing catalogue of recordings.