|If you remember a time when truth, in all areas of life, was a virtue, when personal responsibility was the rule, when everyone, young and old, knew the old hymns and songs of faith and communal fellowship, then you will appreciate the sentiments expressed by many of the pieces on this fine disc, one of the last CDs from the Dale Warland Singers before the group's "retirement" in May, 2004. Although the program certainly is appropriate as a tribute to the revered place of home and family in the traditional North American celebration of Thanksgiving, it also stands as a well-chosen compilation of some of the more beloved old American hymns--especially Shaker tunes--and spirituals, spiced with a few folk songs such as Emma Lou Diemer's spiffy arrangement of She'll be comin' round the mountain and Carol Barnett's equally lively version of Cindy.
The arrangements, by some of the finest in the business, are excellent, and that is one reason choral fans will enjoy this disc. The other reason is the typically outstanding ensemble singing--highlighted by lovely legatos and unisons (listen to the opening bars of Kevin Siegfried's Peace)--and by consistently sensitive sectional and group balances. From the opening Beautiful River, by Rev. Robert Lowry, to William Hawley's touching setting of the Shaker hymn Not one sparrow is forgotten, to Siegfried's Lay me low (another Shaker tune), this is as satisfying and uplifting a choral program as you're likely to hear in this repertoire. Stephen Paulus is well represented (his The Old Church is especially affecting), as are Carol Barnett and Warland himself, whose setting of Simple Gifts is the embodiment of simplicity and beauty. The sound perfectly complements this superb choir. Warmly recommended. [11/8/2005]
----David Vernier, ClassicsToday.com
On Harvest Home
, the Dale Warland Singers delve into the rich legacy of mostly American sacred and folk music. With the lush vocal orchestrations and thoughtful arrangements, many of these familiar songs take on new life and emotional depth.
As a boy, I grew up in the Mennonite church tradition and one of the distinctive things about our church services was the a cappella 4-part harmony. As I got older, I thought this was a bit odd and wished we used instruments in church like most people. In looking back now, I am thankful for that tradition and what it taught me about music and harmony.
Throughout high school I was involved with choral groups, doing several programs each year. The first year after high school I spent a few months at a religious school that had a long-standing tradition of chorale music. I well remember the hours of rehearsal to get the song just right, practicing enunciation and dynamics and expression.
So when I hear a group like the Dale Warland Singers, I have a small insight into the dedication it takes to do choral music at the level of this recording. These are singers and a director at the top of their game, with attention to detail everywhere, creativity in the arrangements and technical brilliance. And what a vocal range, with "how low can they go" bass and sopranos that my normal laptop headphones have trouble reproducing without distortion.
I've long been a fan of spirituals; they are at times moving to hear, at times playful and fun (and can be even more fun to sing). This album features a couple of my favorites: "Shall We Gather At The River" and "Deep River". Upon first hearing this rendition of the latter, I was nearly moved to tears by the stark beauty and emotional depth of this arrangement. It's a prime example of the power of music to take us places emotionally and connect us with the deeper feelings and longings of the soul.
In addition to several spirituals, there is a unique variety of other religious pieces pulled from the traditions of Quakers and Baptists among others. The album also mines some rich treasures from the Shaker tradition, including the comforting "Not One Sparrow Is Forgotten" and the poignant tenderness of "Lay Me Low', with the simple text of
Lay me low where the Lord can find me, where the Lord can own me, where the Lord can bless me
Not everything leans towards the serious or sacred though. A fun, light-hearted arrangement of "She'll Be Comin' Round The Mountain" (arr. by Emma Lou Diemer) features bouncing bass lines and lots of syncopation and sibilance to keep things interesting. And the traditional Dixie folk song "Cindy" tells the story of a heartsick man with tongue-in-cheek lyrics that playfully bounce from part to part.
The liner notes are exceptional, with lots of helpful historic and musical notes on the various selections. This is one of the final albums from The Dale Warland Singers after 31 years. The group disbanded in May 2004 so that the founder Dale Warland could focus more on teaching, consulting and guest conducting. He certainly has left his mark on the choral landscape and this recording is no exception. Highly recommended if you appreciate choral music, especially traditional folk and sacred selections.
Curtis Swartzentruber at Blogcritics.org
This article told me things about the music I didn't know and I enjoyed it. Also I sincerely enjoy the Harvest Home CD. I loved the "how low can you go" bass pieces also especially on my favorite song from the CD Deep River. I am currently in highschool and hope to someday soon be in a choir as good as the Dale Warland Singers.