This innovative collection of noteworthy American lieder was compiled, cobbled together, and performed by Amici Cantanti, a superb vocal chamber ensemble that inhabits a land located somewhere betwixt and between The Manhattan Transfer and the St. Olaf Choir.
"In Between"… is, of course, the title of this collection. Those two words seem accurately to connote the pushing and pulling always operative in its makeup; e.g. this project is what its members worked at in between classical music gigs. The music itself is in between "echt" classical and pop. As one can hear, many of the tastiest harmonies, be they written by Alban Berg or Duke Ellington, are not so much major or minor, but in between.
Most of this great music speaks for itself, and so do the odd juxtapositions of themes when the reasons for them are clarified. The average listener probably hasn't the same ken for Chopin as for Rodgers and Hammerstein, unless that person’s general taste lies "in between.” To wit: the brief allusion to Bach's "Prelude in C Major" from The Well-Tempered Klavier (also used by Charles Gounod in his famous setting of "Ave Maria"), seems to convey the essential emotion set forth by Porter in his unforgettable “True Love.” Chopin's "Fantasie Impromptu" became, of course, the well-known “I'm Always Chasing Rainbows,” the tune of which is quoted twice in this collection. A cacophonous piano prelude by Berg seems to be a fine illustration of Seventh Avenue mayhem at rush hour, encountered by one hurrying toward Penn Station to catch a train bound for Chattanooga; and the sheer silliness of adjoining Bach's choral prelude "Wachet auf! Ruft uns die Stimme" with "The Lion Sleeps Tonight" came to Gary one day while trying to figure out a way to get Regina to sing a sustained high C for this recording. The first melodic notes of "Wachet auf!" when realized in a different rhythm become “The Lion Sleeps Tonight”!
The whole shebang was recorded impeccably by Jonathan Schultz not in a studio but a concert hall, where the group was more at home and felt less confined. Not one drop of reverb has been added to the mix. The subtle acoustic ambience one can hear is that of the hall.
The personaggi of Amici Cantanti were all trained in the classics. Individually they have performed in many of the world's most prestigious venues (see web: www.amicicantanti.com). They met in New York while studying with the great Cornelius Reid. As they themselves say, they're a pretty good garage band!
The Amici are: Regina Leon, Donna Reid, James Higginbotham, Larry Long and Gary Norden. Special thanks goes to our astute producer and engineer Jonathon Shultz, exceedingly generous acoustic consultant Christopher Brown, miraculous photographer Paul Greco and very patient and talented Web and CD designer Nellie Beavers.