Reviews of ‘The Christmas Album’

December 20, 2023 Grace Rhyne

Great recognition has come out from the classical music industries for ‘The Christmas Album,’ released October 2023.
We are so pleased that our first recording in 8 years has been featured so prominently in the media. A testament to the amazing groundwork laid by the Chorale in its previous work.
Once again, we must thank our dear friend Jim Lawson for making it possible to record once more.
Read on to view insights from BBC Music Magazine, Gramophone Magazine, Az Central, and Images AZ theartsdesk and more!

BBC Music Magazine:

“The Hispanic influence is strong in Phoenix Chorale’s ‘The Christmas Album,’ the Mexican border being just hours away from the ensemble’s base in Arizona. The Catalonian folk songs reveal the Chorale’s enviable smoothness and sumptuosity of tone, some if it arguably ought at the expense of spontaneity and vigor. A lightly careful quality also marks the choir’s approach to Lassus’s ‘Resonet in Laudibus,’ although their relatively understated style suits Guerrero’s mellifluous ‘Beata Dei Genitrix’ well. Best of all is Cecilia McDowall’s Trinity Triptych, a Phoenix commission performed with a winning mixture of enthusiasm and finesse.” **** –BBC Music Magazine 


“Christopher Gabbitas was a choral scholar at St John’s. He was also, from 2004 to 2018, a member of The King’s Singers, touring globally and recording over 40 albums. Since 2019 he has been artistic director of the multiple Grammy Award-winning Phoenix Chorale, heard here on The Christmas Album. The repertoire reflects the Hispanic influence that has helped shape this corner of the US- from Renaissance polyphony of Francisco Guerrero to modern arrangements to Catalonian folk songs. Alongside Orlando Lassus’s Resonet in laudibus, there are contemporary arrangements of Veni, veni Emmanuel, Gaudete (the latter by Brian Kay, a founder member of The King’s Singers) and Claro Abril resplandençio, which organists will know as the music for Daquin’s Noël X.  There is also the world-premiere recording of Cecilia McDowall’s Trinity Triptych, settings of three ‘Great O’ antiphons for Advent and Christmas, commissioned by Phoenix Chorale. With an expertly blended, warm chestnuts-roasting on-an-open-fire sound from the well-drilled 29-strong choir, it’s all a cappella and all (71’23”) just a tad samey.” -Jeremy Nicholas Gramophone

AZ Central:
Ed Masley for azcentral interviewed Artistic Director Christopher Gabbitas on recording ‘The Christmas Album’ “It’s got that glow of the amazing sun and the warmth on the rocks and the warmth of the people. And we think that translates into the sound that we can make. It’s a very giving, welcoming, smiley, warm sound. And I’m delighted that we’ve been able to capture that.” – Christopher Gabbitas interviewed by Ed Masley,
“Phoenix Chorale’s collection scores by including some enticing rarities which reflect the Arizona city’s Hispanic influence. Goff Richards’ arrangements of “El Niño Querido” and “Claro Abril Resplandecio” are sublime, and the closing number is a Spanish version of Gruber’s “Silent Night”. I like the way that this disc is sequenced, the more serious items followed by some intoxicating seasonal fluff. We get the premiere recording of British composer Cecilia McDowall’s impressive Trinity Triptych, commissioned by these forces, the angular lines of the final “O Virgo Virginian” delivered with confidence. Brian Kay’s take on “Gaudete” bounces along, and there’s an ingenious version of Holst’s “In the Bleak Midwinter”. The frothier items showcase this group’s skill, as with “Winter Wonderland” (with a hint of bossa nova) and “Jingle Bells”. Try singing along and you’ll marvel at how Phoenix Chorale make both sound easy. Production values are impressive, with superb recorded sound and more funky sleeve art.” -Graham Rickson,
North Central News
“The Phoenix Chorale recently announced the release of “The Christmas Album,” which brings together the same engineering team that recorded the group’s 2016 Grammy-winning “All Night Vigil.” This is the Chorale’s seventh album, but the first recording featuring Phoenix Chorale’s Artistic Director Christopher Gabbitas, and the first partnership with Signum Classics. The album features a commissioned piece from Cecilia McDowall, “Trinity Triptych,” which celebrated the 2021 centenary of Trinity Episcopal Cathedral, (Phoenix Chorale’s home in Downtown Phoenix,) as well as two pieces from local composers, Tom Peterson’s original composition, “A Quiet Chamber,” and Kira Zeeman Rugen’s arrangement of traditional Irish Wexford Carol, both recorded for the first time. The album also includes several songs originally arranged for the King’s Singers, which have been newly adapted for the Phoenix Chorale by Gabbitas, himself a former King’s Singer. The album is available now.” – North Central News Volume 25 Issue 12

Images Arizona

Holiday, Harmony & Heritage
“This season, Phoenix Chorale celebrates the rich cultural seriate of Arizona while embracing the spirit of the holidays through a new 20-track Christmas recording featuring a diverse blend of musical traditions and timeless classics.
Spanning ancient to contemporary and sacred to secular, the album promises to be the perfect soundtrack for festive gatherings and moments of reflection, carrying listeners away on a musical journey that connects the past with the present and the community with the world- all in the spirit of holiday joy.” – Joseph J. Airdo, Images Arizona