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from the archives:
Newsletter, Winter 1993-4


"A mirror to the American spirit."

Camerata's newest recording of American music, the Erato CD entitled An American Christmas, was prominently featured in record stores across the country during the Christmas season. Initial critical response to the new album has been enthusiastic; the Boston Globe called it our " most recent installment in a long and distinguished series of recordings associated with Christmas." Clarke Bustard of the Richmond Times Dispatch named it "the most touching and genuine Christmas disc I've heard in years...a bracing alternative to the treacle that dribbles from shopping mall sound systems and all too many choir lofts and concert stages, year after year." New York magazine labeled the recording "Tops in Town," and the Detroit Free Press, predicting that the album is "destined to be a classic in years to come" says it contains "one compelling discovery after another as it holds a mirror to the American spirit."
European critics, too, have greeted the new recording with joy. Le Monde de la Musique awarded American Christmas its highest distinction, the Choc label, while the Paris review Compact praised the "ideal performances, in which the beauty of the singing is on the same level as the 'rightness' of the feeling."
Camerata reaches new audiences in Europe. Our recording of An American Christmas appeared in Europe last fall about the same time as as series of tour concerts we presented in France and Germany. The series began in Paris with The American Vocalist at Paris' Théatre de la Ville, our fourth invitation to that prestigious venue. Assisted by the American Cathedral Choir, Camerata soloists Azéma, Swanson, Anker, Hite, McCabe, Nke Aka, and Lepkoff serenaded a standing-room-only audience with some real and honest Americana: Calvinist psalms, New England fuguing tunes, and southern folkhymns. Most all of this was unfamiliar to the French public despite the increasing, relentless presence of American mass culture in that land. The grateful audience responded with a prolonged, cheering ovation.
Later during the same month, we moved from France to Germany with performances of The Sacred Bridge. Our concerts of this Judeo-Christian program in the Frankfurt and Cologne regions were laden with a heavy charge of memory. It was wonderful to sense the empathy and enthusiasm of our audiences, and we hope to return to Germany in the near future with further presentations of this repertoire.


Nueva España set for American release.

When we began researching the Colonial Latin-American repertoire a couple of years back, we suspected there was adventure in store. The fruits of our exploration became a Columbus-year festival concert at Tanglewood, and then an American Public Radio special, drawing one of the strongest audience responses in the history of that network. Finally, the CD recording, Nueva España: Close encounters in the New World is being prepared for midwinter release in the United States.
Nueva España is one of Joel Cohen's most original, inventive anthology programs, drawing on both Spanish and New World sources to create a musical panorama of astonishing breadth and variety. Thanks to generous support from Erato and the Boston Symphony Orchestra, Camerata fronted a large, diverse assembly of musicians for this production. Besides soloists Anne Azéma, Dana Hanchard, Derek Lee Ragin, Richard Duguay, and Daniel McCabe, the augmented instrumental group includes Boston Shawm and Sackbut Ensemble, as well as a continuo group of organ, triple harp, and baroque guitars. Choral groups participating are the Schola Cantorum of Boston, directed by Fred Jodry, and the astonishing Haitian womens' chorus from the Dorchester congregation, Les Amis de la Sagesse -- you just have to hear them singing the seventeenth-century guaracha dance that ends the program.
Like An American Christmas, the recording of Nueva España won the coveted Choc rating in December from Le Monde de la Musique. The double award to one ensemble in the same month is virtually unheard-of in the annals of this notoriously finicky journal for Parisian connoisseurs.


Music of Wounds and Wonder: the Audience goes home singing

Kelkheim -- Traversing heights and depths, penetrating into joy and sorrow. Singing the rapture of love, enveloping God-intoxicated mysticism in the music of the spheres. There has not been a concert such as this in years. A bewitched audience in the St. Martin chapel heard these musical miracles and whispered "this is sheer heaven." And at the end, the concertgoers left for home, singing.
The motive for this rapture was the final concert of the 1993 "Early Music Days," animated by the unbelievable Maestro Joel Cohen and his Boston Camerata. Musicians who are terrifyingly good; they demonstrate where other specialists in early music have been left behind.
With the Boston Camerata -- Anne Azéma (soprano), Daniel McCabe (baritone), Jesse Lepkoff (flutes), Carol Lewis (vielle) and the director, Joel Cohen (baritone and lutes) there are qualities, independent of technical questions, that even the most gifted cannot acquire by study: unfettered joy in their own mastery; unfettered joy in communicating with the public...
(Franfurter Höchst, November 29, 1993)


"Extraordinary youthful energy"

Using the subtle and richly evocative anthology approach of which he is a master, Joel Cohen has created the sound equivalent of a dialectical exposé, in which this recital's concept is examined from different points of view. The compositions he brings together are like the different pieces of a big jigsaw puzzle, allowing us to contemplate the mixture of styles and traditions. This is holds true as much for choice of works, juxtaposing polyphony by Victoria, hymns in Quechua and Nahuatl, songs of Galicia, dances imported from Africa, as for the ensemble of performers, mixing the now well-known voices of the Boston Camerata with the exotic tone-colors, astonishingly effective, of the black womens' choir Les Amis de la Sagesse. Interest constantly renewed, perpetual musical pleasure: few recitals have evoked, as this one does, the extraordinary youthful energy that can grow from unexpected musical encounters...(Le Monde de la Musique, December, 1993)


Notes from all over...

Camerata's music filled movie theaters from coast to coast at year's end; the Hollywood blockbuster film Geronimo incorporates two minutes of singing from the 1992 Erato release, The American Vocalist, on its soundtrack. Credits are duly given at film's end for the performances by Camerata and Schola Cantorum. What remained unacknowledged, alas, were the extensive borrowings and reworkings elsewhere in the film score of other material from our CD... Our recording of the Gilles Requiem, released last spring continues to win praise: the English journal CD Review calls it "an important and first-rate recording of a much-neglected work"... Upcoming releases on Erato by the Boston Camerata's extended family include The Unicorn by Anne Azéma and Le Fou sur le pont: Songs of Bernard de Ventadorn by the Camerata Mediterranea; both of these are due out in Europe by late spring.... Camerata's début appearance at the Israel Festival is set for next May...To all our friends colleagues, and supporters, we wish a very happy and prosperous 1994. © 1993 The Boston Camerata Inc.

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