Winner of Chorus America's coveted Margaret Hillis Award and the American Prize for choral performance, Choral Arts' newest release features the music of Eric Barnum in a program about the nature of love at different times and situations of life.
Barnum is young composer with a large following among high school choirs, in addition to professional and collegiate choirs. He has received numerous awards and prestigious grants including the Bush Foundation Artist Fellowship and a McKnight Foundation Grant. He has also held residencies with Choral Arts (Seattle), The Rose Ensemble (St. Paul, MN), Kantorei (Denver), Magnum Chorum (Minneapolis), and Coro Vocal Artists (Tucson).
Choir and Organ (UK): Five stars out of five
“Evidence of the vitality of contemporary American choral
writing comes in this enchantingly sung recital of works by Eric William Barnum
(b. 1979). The Minnesotan’s first appearance on disc is eloquently championed
by the Robert Bode-led mixed-voice, semi-professional Choral Arts ensemble. In
texts ranging from Wilde to Shakespeare and spanning two centuries of American
poets, Barnum’s signature is unfailingly lyrical with rich, luxuriously blended
harmonies, warmly cosseting tonal colours and always sensitive
word-setting---think Eric Whitacre without the neon-bright luminosity.
Beautiful music (accented in places by Lee. D. Thompson’s poetic piano accompaniment)
in gorgeously realized performances. A glorious discovery guaranteed to please.”
American Record Guide
: These Life Stories told musically by Eric Barnum are
about love taking different forms; love at first sight, youthful flirtation,
love by the light of the moon, love and loss, the heling power of love, love
and memory, and the constancy of love amid life’s fleeting moments. Dr
Barnum, who serves as Director of Choral Music at the University of Wisconsin
at Oshkosh, expresses these sentiments in the warm, lyrical, gently dissonant
style that has become de rigueur in our choral age. He certainly
has an ear for poetry; and these settings of texts by Shakespeare, Edna St
Vincent Millay, Oscar Wilde, Choral Arts conductor Robert Bode, and several
others are never less than amiable and are often quite lovely.
I am moved by the radiance of “Sweetheart of the Sun’,
which recalls the first encounter of Ruth and Boaz of the Hebrew Bible, as
described in the poetry of Thomas Hood. I’m also partial to Barnum’s warm,
nostalgic take on Edna St Vincent Millay’s “Afternoon on a Hill” and to his
Rutter-like setting of Thomas MacDonagh’s sad and romantic piece, “The Stars Stand
up in Air’.
Maestro Bode and his choir won the Margaret Hillis Award
for Choral Excellence in 2010, and I see no need for them to give it back in
2015. Their singing flatters Dr Barnum’s intentions with a rich, voluptuous
sound that’s captured lovingly by Gothic’s engineers.