FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
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PHOENIX CHORALE & CHARLES BRUFFY
RELEASE FOLLOW-UP RECORDING TO GRAMMY®-WINNING SPOTLESS ROSE
NORTHERN LIGHTS Features the Choral Music of
Norwegian Composer OLA GJEILO
Northern Lights: Choral Works by Ola Gjeilo
Phoenix Chorale; Charles Bruffy, conductor
Harrington String Quartet; Ted Belledin, saxophone
The Ground*; Serenity*; Ubi caritas; Northern Lights*; Dark Night of the Soul*; The Spheres; Tota pulchra es; Prelude; Phoenix; Unicornis captivator; Evening Prayer*
*World premiere recording
CHSA 5100; UPC 095115510025
Hybrid SACD; US SRP $19.99
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On February 28, 2012, Chandos will release the first ever recording of choral works by young, Norwegian composer, Ola Gjeilo (Yay-lo), with its latest album, Northern Lights. Performed by Charles Bruffy, the Phoenix Chorale, The Harrington String Quartet, saxophonist Ted Belledin and the composer himself, Northern Lights contains five world premiere recordings and three pieces which were either commissioned, composed, or dedicated to the Phoenix Chorale.
The collaboration between Phoenix Chorale and Ola Gjeilo began at a convention for the American Choral Directors Association when Walton Music publisher, Gunilla Luboff, introduced conductor Charles Bruffy to the composer. Hearing Gjeilo’s Ubi caritas for the first time, Bruffy was captivated. Soon after this chance introduction, Bruffy brought Gjeilo’s music to the GRAMMY® Award-winning Phoenix Chorale and the response was overwhelming. Gjeilo soon became the first Composer-in-Residence of the Chorale.
“He doesn’t sound like he’s writing Norwegian music, he doesn’t sound like he’s writing American music,” said Bruffy, “he’s writing new music that utilizes the tools of the past…but it’s all in such a refreshing and magnetic way.”
Each work within Northern Lights was written with such depth of purpose that the stories are nearly as inspiring as the music. Phoenix was dedicated to Bruffy and the Chorale in honor of the choir’s fiftieth anniversary. Gjeilo was quite moved during his first visit to Phoenix, AZ because he had never before seen a desert. He describes his Phoenix as “symphonic in nature…one of those pieces in which the text is very much a servant of the music, not the other way around…more like film music set to pictures and memories from the city and the desert than the musical interpretation of a text.” Phoenix is a setting of the traditional Latin Agnus Dei.
Dark Night of the Soul was commissioned for Charles Bruffy and the Phoenix Chorale by the widow of Norman Luboff, Mrs. Gunilla Luboff. Its text comes from the writings of St. John of the Cross who describes the journey of the soul as it leaves its earthly prison to be reunited with God. The music is, at times, frenetic, occasionally eliciting a visceral response; however, the journey of the soul as it surrenders to the divine is made obvious by Gjeilo’s pairing of voices and strings. Bruffy recounts the first time the Phoenix Chorale performed the piece to a live audience; “It was a wonderful response that the audience had the first time we performed it. We then put it out on KBAQ [a local NPR affiliate station] and everyone in town called to ask “who was that composer and what was that piece? And when are they going to record it?”
With text taken from the sixth chapter of the Song of Songs, but inspired by the aurora borealis, Gjeilo describes the piece Northern Lights as his “most Norwegian production in years”. Composed in December 2007 in Oslo, Gjeilo describes what prompted him to write the piece: “Looking out from the attic window that Christmas in Oslo, over a wintry lake under the stars, I was thinking about how this ‘terrible’ beauty is so profoundly reflected in the northern lights or aurora borealis… It is one of the most beautiful natural phenomena I’ve ever witnessed, and has such a powerful, electric quality, which must have been both mesmerizing and terrifying to people in the past, when no one knew what it was and when much superstition was attached to these experiences.”
Gjeilo extracted “The Ground” from his Sunrise Mass. The text comes from the Sanctus of the Latin Mass and illustrates one of Gjeilo’s favorite compositional devices, the warm effect created by coupling of choir and strings.
Serenity is Gjeilo’s setting of the ancient text “O magnum mysterium”. A text set to music by many choral composers, Gjeilo refers to his version as Serenity because he uses the word in the verbal instruction at the top of the score.
The final track of the recording is a departure from the repertoire that precedes it on the album. Evening Prayer was the last piece composed by Gjeilo during his residency at the Phoenix Chorale. The six-minute work for choir, saxophone and piano features written parts for the choir only. The saxophone and piano lines are almost wholly impromptu, showcasing the improvisational talent of Gjeilo and his jazz partner, Ted Belledin.
Other pieces featured on the recording are Ubi caritas, The Spheres, Tota pulchra es, Prelude, and Unicornis captivator.
Born in Norway in 1978, Ola Gjeilo moved to New York in 2001 to begin his composition studies with Robert Beaser at the Juilliard School, from which he graduated with a Master’s Degree in 2006. His first and possibly most musically influential teacher in Norway was Wolfgang Plagge, after which he pursued his Bachelor’s Degree including two years at the Royal College of Music in London where he studied with William Mival. He especially enjoys writing music for choir, orchestra, symphonic winds, and the piano, and is greatly influence by the likes of jazz greats Keith Jarrett and Pat Metheny, to name a few. Presently a full-time composer based in New York, he is also interested in film, and his style draws much inspiration from the cinema and film composers such as Thomas Newman and Howard Shore. Gjeilo’s published concert works, distributed by Hal Leonard, are performed all over the world. As a pianist, he has a great passion for improvisation, either solo or over his own ensemble works. His debut recording as a pianist/composer, the lyrical crossover album Stone Rose, was released to critical acclaim in 2007 and its sequel is scheduled for release in the spring of 2012. www.olagjeilo.com
Arizona’s professional choir, the GRAMMY® Award-winning Phoenix Chorale is the first North American choir to record for Chandos Records, having made its first appearance on the label in 2004 with Shakespeare in Song. The choir’s first joint recording with the Kansas City Chorale, Eternal Rest, was released in 2005. The second, of Grechaninov’s Passion Week, was released in 2007 and received GRAMMY® nominations in four categories, including Best Classical Album, Best Choral Performance, and Best Surround Sound Album, and won a GRAMMY® Award for Best Engineered Album, Classical. In 2008, the Chorale released Spotless Rose: Hymns to the Virgin Mary which received GRAMMY® Award nominations in two categories, including Best Classical Album, winning a GRAMMY® for Best Small Ensemble Performance. Also in 2008, the choir’s third joint recording with the Kansas City Chorale, a disc of sacred choral works by Rheinberger, was released and received GRAMMY® nominations for Best Choral Performance and Best Surround Sound.
Audiences around the globe have enjoyed the sounds of the Phoenix Chorale also through broadcasts, including American Public Media’s ‘Performance Today’. In 2009, the choir made its New York debut with the Kansas City Chorale (also under the direction of Charles Bruffy) in Alice Tully Hall at Lincoln Center. The New York Times referred to the choirs’ ‘refined sound and elegant phrasing’ as well as ‘vivid intensity’, and praised the performance for its ‘buoyant pulse and energetic finesse’. Formerly known as the Phoenix Bach Choir, the Phoenix Chorale was founded in 1958 by Drs Hal and Timona Pittman. It originally focused on music of the Renaissance and baroque periods, but today is equally dedicated to the creation and performance of new music, which it intermingles with more traditional concert repertoire. www.phoenixchorale.org
One of the most admired choral conductors in the United States, the GRAMMY® Award winning conductor Charles Bruffy began his career as a tenor soloist, performing with the Robert Shaw Festival Singers in recordings and in concerts both in France and at Carnegie Hall in New York. Shaw encouraged his development as a conductor and in 1996 he was invited by American Public Media’s ‘Performance Today’ to help celebrate Shaw’s eightieth birthday with an on-air tribute. In 1999, The New York Times named him as the late, great conductor’s potential heir. He has been Artistic Director of the Kansas City Chorale since 1988, the Phoenix Chorale since 1999, and of the Kansas City Symphony Chorus since 2008. He conducts workshops and clinics across the US; is a member of the Advisory Board of the Atlanta Young Singers of Callanwolde; and served on the Board of Chorus America for seven years. Respected and renowned for his fresh and passionate interpretations of standards of the choral repertoire and for championing new music, Charles Bruffy has commissioned and premiered works by composers such as Jean Belmont, Ola Gjeilo, Matthew Harris, Libby Larsen, Zhou Long, Stephen Paulus, Stephen Sametz, Steven Stucky, Eric Whitacre, and Chen Yi. Under his supervision, the Roger Dean Company, a division of the Lorenz Corporation, publishes a choral series specializing in music for professional ensembles and sophisticated high school and college choirs. His eclectic discography includes five recordings for Chandos Records.
Established in 1981, the Harrington String Quartet has performed across the United States and internationally. Among recent highlights are its participation in the Amadeus Quartet Seminar in London, its New York debut at Weill Hall in Carnegie Hall, and the PBS documentary A Sound Collaboration – The Harrington String Quartet. The Quartet has enjoyed collaborations with several world-renowned artists, including David Shifrin, Pepe Romero, James Dick, William Preucil, and members of the Cavani, Miró, and Pro Arte string quartets. Each member of the Quartet is in residence as faculty members at West Texas A&M University and serves as principal player in the Amarillo Symphony. The Harrington String Quartet comprises Rossitza Jekova-Goza and Keith Redpath, violins, Vesselin Todorov, viola, and Emmanuel Lopez, cello.
The saxophonist Ted Belledin earned his Bachelor’s Degree at the Eastman School of Music in Rochester, New York and has performed across the US and abroad. He is a regular member of Mother’s Favorite Child and Dennis Rowland’s Jazz Experience and is in the backing groups for Myles David Lancette and Lea Cappelli. In addition to playing saxophone, he doubles on piano and clarinet, composes, arranges, and sequences music, and has a growing recording studio. www.tedbelledin.com
Chandos Records was founded in 1979 by Brian Couzens and quickly established itself as one of the world’s leading classical labels. Universally acclaimed for the excellence of its sound quality and having won four GRAMMY® Awards, Chandos has always been at the forefront of technical innovation including being the first record label to produce and release Compact Discs. Championing a rare and neglected repertoire, Chandos’ diverse catalogue contains over 2000 titles, from early music to contemporary, with composers from around the world. The independent, family run company, which produces and markets its recordings from its offices in Colchester, England, is distributed world-wide. www.chandos.net
Headquartered in Franklin, Tennessee, a suburb of Nashville, Naxos of America (http://www.facebook.com/NaxosUSA) is the #1 independent classical music distributor in the U.S. and Canada. Specializing in state-of-the-art distribution, marketing and promotion, Naxos of America distributes nearly 30,000 SKUs to traditional brick and mortar retail, as well as offering a comprehensive suite of services tailored to consumer direct fulfillment. Naxos of America is also the largest digital distributor of independent classical music, supplying a catalog of over 30,000 albums to hundreds of digital download and mobile outlets worldwide. Naxos of America offers marketing, e-marketing, publicity, e-publicity, physical and digital e-commerce services, licensing opportunities, streaming services, sales and customer service for all new releases and active catalog titles of Naxos Records and more than 125 distributed labels.