While I’m no great fan of “chill” albums, I’m a great fan of good choral singing. Thankfully, Eventide not only features some of the finest choral singing you’ll here anywhere; as far as chill albums go, it’s one of the best I’ve heard (and having worked in a suburban CD store for some years, I’ve heard a lot).
Young UK choral outfit Voces8 (for those of you whose school Latin is a bit rusty, voces is the plural of vox – “voice”; the “8” is for the group’s eight singers) has been around since 2003 but this is its debut for the prestigious Decca label, surely a coup for any young choir.
The repertoire is unashamedly chillax and features straight classical works by Tallis, Bruckner, Britten, Lauridsen et al, albeit sometimes in arrangement, as well as vaguely crossover items such as Karl Jenkins’ Benedictus and film music such as Hymn to the Fallen by John Williams from Saving Private Ryan. There are also world premiere recordings such as Ola Gjeilo’s Second Eve, which was commissioned by Voces8.
Many of the items feature solo instrumental accompaniment courtesy of Christian Forshaw’s saxophone, Matthew Sharpe’s cello and Lavinia Meijer’s harp; Tallis’ Te lucis ante terminum and the plainchant (the two items bookend the program as a whole) on which it was based will undoubtedly evoke the Hilliard Ensemble’s mega-successful collaboration with saxophonist Jan Garbarek, but in a good way: these are no cheap imitations, but an original approach that is as fresh, attractive and, dare I say it, utterly relaxing, as are all the performances themselves, which are without exception impeccable.
If there’s just one real criticism to be made here, it’s that everything sounds a wee bit samey: there’s a dangerously fine line between relaxing and soporific, and some more genuine ebb and flow of tension wouldn’t have gone astray.