Give us a haven upon judgment day, plead the pilgrims on their way to Santiago de Compostela in a 12th chant that opens the stunning Sono Luminus double CD Impermanence. It features the Lorelei Ensemble, a group of nine women under the leadership of Beth Willer singing a wide ranging repertoire unified by the themes of migration and movement.
Sarah Brailey, Margot Rood, Sonja Tengblad, Christina English, Claire McNamara, Sophie Michaux, Stephanie Kacoyanis, and Emily Marvosh, led by Beth Willer take the listener on a musical journey that spans the centuries and thousands of miles that separate us from the chant of the 15th Flemish composer Guillaume Du Fay and the Japan of Toru Takemitsu, the plainchants of the late Middle Ages and brings us closer to the contemporary sounds of Peter Gilbert.
The Lorelei Ensemble’s way with all of this music is a thing of wonder. Whether imploring the Divinity for salvation, singing the praises of the Apostles, extolling the healing powers of the Virgin, or lauding the earthly and heavenly powers of St. Anthony of Padua, the Lorelei Ensemble sings in clear, idiomatic Medieval Latin and flawless Middle French. The ensemble members sustain throughout a limpid tone even as the sopranos reach the area above the treble staff with utter comfort and seeming abandon. The mezzo-sopranos and contraltos of the ensemble anchor the music with a velvety sound, providing a solid foundation for the melismatic writing that abounds in much of this music.
Uttering poetic metaphors in the classic Japanese of Saiyo Hoshi, Fujiwara no Tadamichi, and several other ancient poets, and set to music by Toru Takemitsu and Peter Gilbert, the chameleonic group adjusts its sound, making it edgier, adding more vibrato now and then, while navigating all along much of the tonally vague yet hauntingly compelling music.
The scholarly program notes, the accompanying translations, the classy packaging, the impeccable engineering by Daniel Shores, and the overall production by Dan Merceruio make Impermanence deserving of permanence in the library of any collector interested in vocal music off the beaten path.
Rafael de Acha