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Circle of Compassion

Canada’s foremost choral ensemble shows compassion and consolation on new album

By Frances Pollet

Circle of Compassion
By Chor Leoni Men’s Choir; Diane Loomer, conductor
(Cypress Choral Music)

 On its newest album, Circle of Compassion, Chor Leoni Men’s Choir has a wonderfully homogenized sound. The first tenors sing comfortably in the upper stratosphere of the vocal range. On the other end, the basses sing with edge. They are masters of a varied colour palette, at times dramatic, and other times quiet and subtle, but always in control of the pitch. Never does one voice protrude in an unseemly manner. I am absolutely in awe of the blend and nuance they achieve.

Formed in 1992 by conductor Diane Loomer, Chor Leoni is one of Canada’s foremost choral ensembles, known throughout North America and Europe.

Circle of Compassion is also the name of the choir’s Remembrance Day concert, held annually in Vancouver. The concerts are cherished locally and are offered, according to the CD liner notes, “in compassion and consolation to all those who have suffered loss.”

The repertoire on this CD is varied: seven of the 15 tracks represent the work of Vancouver composers including Steven Chatman, Stephen Smith, Larry Nickel, Ken Cormier and Loomer herself. Texts by Walt Whitman, Robert Frost and Shakespeare inspire the songwriters.

Some of the music has a more populist appeal. The song Christmas in the Trenches, for example, is a lovely ballad for solo tenor and choir. Other works offer more complex examples of choral art. Pensive on Her Dead Gazing (poem by Walt Whitman, music by Stephen Smith) features dense and dramatic choral harmonies leading to a tender lullaby of lament: “Give me my darlings back again.” The interpretation of Choose Something Like a Star (poem by Robert Frost, music by Randall Thompson) is stunning.

The CD ends pensively with a note of the familiar, Bring Him Home (from Les Miserables) with music by Schoenberg and Boublil.

Circle of Compassion received the 2008 National Award for Outstanding Choral Recording given by the Association of Canadian Choral Conductors. For lovers of choral music, it is highly recommended.

Available at www.chorleoni.org

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