The Antioch Chamber Ensemble Biography:
Antioch debuted at the gala opening of the New Jersey Performing Arts Center in 1997, and quickly emerged as one of the New York Metropolitan areaâ€™s finest vocal ensembles. In recent seasons, critics have called Antioch â€œstellar,â€ â€œflawless,â€ and â€œan exceptional group.â€ Seeking to present as diverse a program as possible of the worldâ€™s greatest choral literature, both sacred and secular, Antioch has performed works ranging from William Byrdâ€™s Mass for Four Voices to Brahmsâ€™ Liebeslieder Waltzes to Frank Martinâ€™s Mass for Double Choir, with a core group of only eleven singers.
Since their debut as the ensemble-in-residence at Trinity Church, Wall Street in 2001, Antiochâ€™s performance highlights have included feature performances for Carnegie Hallâ€™s Neighborhood Concert Series and the Trinity Wall Street â€œNoon-Dayâ€ Concert Series in New York. They appeared for a fourth time in May of 2005 at the renowned Piccolo Spoleto Festival in Charleston, South Carolina for the â€œSpotlight on Choral Musicâ€ series. They have performed feature concerts for numerous venues, including the Hayes Mansion in San Jose, California. As part of their commitment to music education, Antioch also conducts master classes for young choral artists, such as the Bernardsville High School Madrigal Ensemble in Bernardsville, New Jersey.
The 2005-2006 season will mark Antiochâ€™s third season as ensemble-in-residence at Calvary Church in Summit, New Jersey. The debut of their independent â€œConcerts at Calvaryâ€ series was met with acclaim by Classical New Jersey, which raved, â€œThe intonation was pure, the blend exquisite, the voices ethereal in the church's sympathetic acoustics.â€ Further, Antiochâ€™s first full-length recording, Winter Songs, featuring the Mid-Winter Songs by contemporary American composer Morten Lauridsen, was released in December of 2003. Mr. Lauridsen has said of the recording, â€œAntioch is certainly in the top rank of a cappella choirs in the United States... I recommend this CD most highly, especially to choral aficionados". In June of 2005, Antioch toured for the first time, in beautiful Nova Scotia.
The eleven exceptional musicians who comprise Antioch are music educators and singers who have performed with ensembles such as the Choir of Trinity Wall Street, Vox Vocal Ensemble, Cantori New York, Philadelphiaâ€™s Bridge Ensemble, and the world-renowned Westminster Choir. They are led by artistic director Joshua Copeland.
REVIEWS of Winter Songs:
"Antioch is certainly in the top rank of a cappella choirs in the United States. Their CD entitled "Winter Songs" is a marvelous showcase of demanding 20th-Century repertoire, including my Mid-Winter Songs on Poems of Robert Graves and O Magnum Mysterium. Both works are elegantly performed as are the other works on the CD. I recommend this CD most highly, especially to choral aficionados".
Morten Lauridsen, composer
"The first time I listened to Winter Songs, I was captivated by the jagged, energetic chords that open the disc. The Antioch Chamber Ensemble, based out of Summit, NJ, has a beautiful, lyrical sound that works well with the 20th century choral music they focus on here. But classical music is admittedly not my forte, and I did my requisite background check to see if I was off the mark.
Cue to group website. A group chockful of accomplished singers, nearly all who graduated from Westminster Choir College. Appearances on PBS and with the New York Philharmonic. Praise from the composer Lauridsen himself.
Feeling encouraged, I returned to my stereo and put on the CD again. And again. And again. Antioch's sound is the most powerful for me in Lauridsen's opening song cycle. They also shine in lovely arrangements of classics, bringing a chilling darkness to the Coventry Carol and an appropriate bittersweetness for Greensleeves. Antioch is not perfect '" the franticness of Wassail left me underwhelmed and I wish their version of O Magnum Mysterium had lingered a bit more instead of rushing by. But these are nitpicking comments for an ensemble whose technically superior instruments leave many groups I've heard in the dust.
The melancholia of Winter Songs may seem out of place as the seasons warm up in Antioch's home geography, but their music resonated for me '" and now I have a perfect soundtrack for when the chill comes back into the air.
Jevan Soo, rarb.org
When I first heard I had to review an album by the Antioch Chamber Ensemble, I was hesitant. I had never really been a fan of chamber music '" when I want classical music, I go for big things like Verdi and Mahler. And when I actually got the CD, and looked at the track listing, I was plain scared. This "who's who" of 20th-century classical music made me flash back to my fourth semester of musicology, where I had to listen to the genre every day but never learned more than a grudging respect for it.
And with all this going for it right off the bat, I put it in my player. And what came out of my speakers was beautiful. I couldn't believe my ears! The music that I had hated for so long was actually affecting me! This was a good album!
For that alone I think the Antioch Chamber Ensemble deserve props. For making me like what I had previously dreaded, for making me actually want to listen to Poulenc and Lauridsen, the group deserves more than a 5. Yes, there are six songs with instruments, but those only serve to highlight just how good the group is on the songs without accompaniment.
But apart from just affecting me, the album is a spectacular example of what a classical choir should sound like. Joshua Copeland's music direction is brilliant '" the group has a wide range of energies, from gentle delicacy to controlled raucousness, and he manages it deftly. The balance and blend is outstanding (especially for a live recording), and the tuning is spot-on. The group's diction, even on the French songs, is impeccable. There are only the tiniest hints of solos, but they are enough to show that the soloists can certainly hold their own. In fact, I can't find one thing to complain about!
From the first song to the last, Winter Songs truly dazzled me. And I still can't believe it.
Trey Harris, rarb.org
Check out the artist's website:
1. Mid-Winter Songs - 1. Lament for Pasiphae
2. Mid-Winter Songs - 2. Like Snow
3. Mid-Winter Songs - 3. She Tells Her Love While Half Asleep
4. Mid-Winter Songs - 4. Mid-Winter Waking
5. Mid-Winter Songs - 5. Intercession in Late October
6. Un soir de neige - De grande couillers de neige
7. Un soir de neige - La bonne neige
8. Here is the Little Door
9. Sing Lullaby
10. The Spotless Rose
11. Coventry Carol
12. Ah, Bleak and Chill the Wint'ry Wind
14. Wassail Song
15. Lo, How a Rose E'er Blooming
16. O Magnum Mysterium
17. Notre Pere