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Classical Album of the Week: Essential Voices USA Shines a Brilliant Light on Holiday Music

December 9, 2019. As the winter solstice approaches, and daylight shortens in the Northern hemisphere, people throughout the ages have brought light into their spiritual practices to combat the darkness. Our Classical Album of the Week, from the choral group Essential Voices USA, features works that bring us a musical “season of light.”

The album opens with a striking à capella work by American composer Jacob Narverud, “Season of Light,” set to his own text: “Come, sit by the fire, and share stories of old/ Bright visions of time and of wonders, we’re told…”

Thanksgiving is represented in John Bucchino’s “Grateful” (1995.) The Jewish festival of lights receives uplifting treatment in renowned Broadway composer Stephen Schwarz’s “The Chanukah Song (We are Lights,)” to words by lyricist Steve Young.

New arrangements of “Carol of the Bells,” “God Rest Ye,” and “Auld Lang Syne,” bring a fresh take to these holiday favorites.

Originally written for children’s voices, Benjamin Britten’s “A New Year Carol,” expresses serenity and hope for days to come. At the other end of the historical spectrum, the open, rich sounds of the French 15th century can be heard in Jean Mouton’s “Ave Maria.”

Praised online in BroadwayWorld Classical as “the pinnacle of vocal performance,” Essential Voices, USA, under the direction of its Music Director Judith Clurman, is a group comprised of professional and auditioned volunteer singers. They perform in New York City venues from the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade, to Carnegie Hall with the New York Pops.

Track list:
    1.    Season of Light by Jacob Narverud ?
    2.    Grateful by John Bucchino, arr. Nowlin?
    3.    Carol of the Bells by Mykola Leontovych, arr. Wihousky?
    4.    God Rest Ye, arr. Chase?
    5.    Ave Maria by Jean Mouton?
    6.    The Chanukah Song by Stephen Schwarz and and Steve Young, arr. Nowlin?
    7.    A New Year’s Carol by Benjamin Britten?
    8.    Auld Lang Syne, arr. Firth?


Debra's last day on the air at WRTI was September 21st, 2021. She's now the radio host for The Metropolitan Opera. Read more here.