Conspirare - Sing Freedom

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CONSPIRARE - Sing Freedom! - Craig Hella Johnson (Conductor & Piano) - Hybrid SACD - 093046752569 - Released: September 2011 - Harmonia Mundi 807525

- Motherless Child
- A City Called Heaven
- Soon Ah Will Be Done
- Hard Trials
- Hold On
- Been in de Storm
- Oh Graveyard (Lay This Body Down)
- Ain'-a That Good News!
- Steal Away
- Walk Together, Children
- I Got a Home in-a Dat Rock
- Lily of the Valley
- Plenty Good Room
- My God is a Rock
- Freedom Song
- Swing Low, Sweet Chariot

African American spirituals are meant to inspire, to instill hope, to purge the soul. Just like Russian work songs, not only are they meant to rally people together, but also rally an individual's inner strength in the face of hardship. And the choral ensemble Conspirare under the leadership of their director Craig Hella Johnson convey those exact emotions very well. They produce a warm a cappella sound that brings to mind the fine Canadian choir Chor Leoni.

Most of the arrangements found on this CD do not veer far from the long-standing traditional versions we've become accustomed to, except for the differently unusual settings by composers David Lang (Oh Graveyard), and Tarik O'Regan (Swing Low, Sweet Chariot). The multi-layered effects put down by Lang create the impression of a multitude of voices rising from the graves, drifting in from a distant past, and calling us to eternal rest. Strange but effective. Guaranteed you will not recognize Swing Low, Sweet Chariot under the hands of Tarik O'Regan. But that's a good thing. He's managed to create a totally new version of an old standard that makes you hear its famous lyrics in a new light, with rich harmonies that entice the soul to reflect and ponder. And the inspired arrangement by Craig Hella Johnson himself of Motherless Child should raise a few goose bumps, especially with the beautiful solo voice of Melissa Givens set against a warm choral background.

This choral group has received many awards and nominations in the past, and it's not difficult to understand why!

Jean-Yves Duperron - September 2011