Paul Halley's renowned choirs Chorus Angelicus and Gaudeamus pair up for another spectacular offering. The choirs sing with precision and clarity while incorporating a warmth and immediacy to the performance of each song. What Child Is This? comprises a selection of the new, adventurous, and less familiar sacred Christmas repertoire, much of it performed in recent years in the choirs’ annual Christmas Angelicus concert series (now in its sixteenth season and broadcast annually by National Public Radio.) More than half the arrangements on the CD are Halley's work, which adds a refreshing, new sound to this mix of Christmas music. Halley’s arrangements and compositions, written for these choirs and previously unrecorded, deliver the adventurous harmonies and captivating lyricism for which he is celebrated. As Absolute Sound magazine observed in an earlier CD review "Halley's descants soar above ... fresh, audacious, and thrilling, lifting a familiar carol into realms of glory.”
About Chorus Angelicus:
CHORUS ANGELICUS (The Angelic Choir) the internationally acclaimed children’s choir, has impressed audiences with the best of choral music, both sacred and secular, since its founding in 1991 by Paul Halley. Artists-In-Residence at Trinity Episcopal Church in Torrington, CT, the ensemble comprises fifty boys and girls who hail from towns throughout southwestern New England
In an annual season of twenty-five concerts the chorus performs a large and varied repertoire, from the classics of choral literature to contemporary and newly commissioned compositions. Performances have included collaborations with Gaudeamus, the Battell Chamber Orchestra, the Hartford Symphony, and the Paul Winter Consort in venues such as Ozawa Hall at Tanglewood, Boston’s Symphony Hall, The Cathedral of St. John the Divine, New York, and The Battell Stoeckel Music Shed, Norfolk, CT. Chorus Angelicus has toured to Florida, the Pacific Northwest, Nova Scotia, and Ireland, and is frequently invited to perform at international choral workshops and music festivals. Chorus Angelicus and Gaudeamus were selected to perform at the 1999 inauguration ceremony of the Governor of Connecticut, and the choirs were featured in a documentary by Connecticut Public Television to highlight the choirs’ extraordinary, inner-city concert series Music For A Great Space, free concerts in the architectural splendor of Connecticut’s most notable urban churches. NBC’s news special of the choirs’ beloved Christmas Angelicus concerts has resulted in the annual broadcast of the live performances of this Christmas concert series by National Public Radio.
GAUDEAMUS (Let us rejoice),
a chamber choir of twenty-five professional and semi-professional singers, was formed by Paul Halley in the spring of 1992 to join Chorus Angelicus in the presentation of such choral masterworks as the “St. John Passion”, the “B Minor Mass”, Handel’s “Dixit Dominus”, and Britten’s “Saint Nicholas”. Gaudeamus and Chorus Angelicus together have developed a large following through their three principal concert series: Christmas Angelicus, Salute To America and Music for a Great Space. The Passiontide concerts by Gaudeamus alone have introduced its audiences to choral works of a more intimate, sacred nature, and its explorations of world music have resulted in exciting collaborations with musicians from around the globe. Gaudeamus participated with folk legend Pete Seeger on his Grammy Award-winning CD Pete, and subsequently won high praise from Billboard Magazine, Pro Audio Magazine, and high-end audiophiles the world over for its album of a cappella masterworks, Sacred Feast, recorded in surround sound for Sony/Pioneer.
About Paul Halley:
PAUL HALLEY, M. A. Cantab, FRCO, ARCT, Paul Halley was born in Romford, England in 1952 and received his early musical training in Ottawa, Canada. At the age of sixteen, he was made an Associate of the Royal Conservatory of Toronto. Having been awarded the organ scholarship at Trinity College, Cambridge, Halley received his M.A. with prizes in composition and performance, and was made a Fellow of the Royal College of Organists, winning first prize in the College examinations. Via a circuitous route involving two years teaching in Jamaica, W.I., Halley became Organist and Choirmaster at The Cathedral of St. John the Divine in New York City where he served for twelve years, from 1977 to 1989, transforming the Cathedral’s music program into a rich combination of classical and contemporary music.
Concurrent with his tenure at the Cathedral, Halley became a principal member of The Paul Winter Consort, and earned six Grammy Awards for his contributions as featured writer and performer on many Consort recordings. Following his departure from the Cathedral in 1989, Halley settled in rural northwestern Connecticut and founded Joyful Noise, Inc., the non-profit organization which administers the activities and tours of the children’s choir, Chorus Angelicus, and the adult ensemble, Gaudeamus. In 1999, Halley became Director of Music at Trinity Episcopal Church, Torrington, CT where he inaugurated the Choral and Organ Scholars program in conjunction with Yale University’s Institute of Sacred Music. In 2007, Halley relocated to Nova Scotia to become Music Director at St. George’s Anglican Church, the Chapel of the University of King’s College, and Atlantic School of Theology.
Halley’s choral and instrumental compositions are distributed internationally by Pelagos Incorporated, the recording, music publishing, and arts management company for which he acts as Creative Director. Halley’s compositions have been performed and licensed by many notable artists and organizations including Sony Entertainment, Windham Hill/BMG Music, the New Jersey Symphony, John Williams and the Boston Pops Orchestra, The Louisville Symphony, Canadian Brass, Margie Gillis, Jennifer Muller and The Works, and numerous international band and choral festivals. Halley has received an ASCAP Composer Award each year since 1998, and his recordings and performances are frequently aired on NPR and CBC. Halley creates three to four new, commissioned works per year, and performs frequently as a guest artist in venues throughout North America.
Halley lives with his wife and business partner, Meg Race, on the South Shore of Nova Scotia. They enjoy exploring the islands of Mahone Bay in a traditional Cape Cod catboat which rejoices in the name, “Magnificat”.
from Gramophone Magazine
'The heartfelt cry from John Steane as he considers twelve Yuletide CD offerings that actually provide cheer.’ from Focus/Christmas Discs ‘Tis The Season To Be Jollier'
“If like myself you find that such insistent authenticity induces, after a while, not the most charitable of feelings, you might find further relief in the combined efforts of Chorus Angelicus and Gaudeamus under Paul Halley in “What Child Is This?”. These singers use their voices more naturally and sound less as though enjoying themselves to order. Halley’s own arrangements are pleasingly inventive, and there are others by Kenneth Leighton, Simon Preston and Vaughan Williams. It’s a well ordered programme ending gently with Watts’ Cradle Hymn after an exhilaratingly liberated Go, Tell It on the Mountain.”– John Steane
from The Choral Journal
"Depending on their tastes, you can safely choose one of the four discs listed above and please nearly every choral aficionado on your holiday gift list. If I could afford to order these by the dozen as stocking stuffers, I’d do it. Each is special in its own way.
Paul Halley’s fresh but tasteful arrangements invigorate the latest offering from his groups Chorus Angelicus (a children’s choir) and Gaudeamus (a professional-level chamber choir). Spiced with inventive harmonies and textures, pieces like 'Jesus Jesus Rest Your Head' and 'Good King Wenceslas' take on new life. Recording and performances are superb, with the sweet, transparent sound of Chorus Angelicus imparting something inimitable and irreplaceable: innocent wonder at the season. Strongly recommended." – Lawrence Schenbeck
from The Living Church
"With What Child Is This?, the 50-voice Chorus Angelicus children’s choir of New England joins forces with the Gaudeamus chamber choir under the direction of Paul Halley. Mr. Halley, who founded both groups in the early 1990s, chose the selections for this collection to include some of the most popular lesser-known works that these choirs have performed in their Christmas concert series in recent years and which, since 2004, have been broadcast on National Public Radio.
Listeners will find many familiar favorites, including Mr. Halley’s arrangements of American and English traditionals. But they will also delight in the soaring voices on the Irish song 'Beannacht Leat', the prayerful quality of Rachmaninoff’s 'Bogoroditse Devo' (Ave Maria), and the precision with which the choirs perform Tomas Luis de Victoria’s Matins responsory for Christmas day, 'O Magnum Mysterium'. Mr. Halley’s own composition, 'Agnus Dei', is a particular treat.
In many parts of the country, at least one radio station plays nothing but secular holiday hits from early November through Christmas day. If you would like to take a more meditative approach to getting into the spirit of the season, both of these CDs will be welcome additions to your music library." – Michael O’Loughlin
from 'With Heart and Voice', WXII Radio, Rochester, NY
"I think this Christmas CD is your best yet. I am particularly thrilled with the arrangements of What Child Is This, Angelus Ad Virginem and Watts’ Cradle Hymn. Altogether first rate singing and accompaniment." - Richard Gladwell
from The New Liturgical Movement
'An Actual Christmas CD Worth Owning'
"I hate to admit this for fear of being pilloried, but years ago I burned out on the "sounds of Christmas." For one thing, you hear them in Advent. And those medleys in which various tunes are smashed together in some not-clever way make my ears hurt. The secularism is bad enough but even the religious material is more than I can stand. So, I long ago turned to listening to the most obscure possible Christmas CDs, anything with melodies with words I don't recognize, anything to freshen up the repertoire -- from some far-flung country, from the 11th century by Anon.
All of this is to say that I was prepared to not like a CD called "What Child Is This" by the Chorus Angelicus and Gaudeamus, directed by Paul Halley. Then I heard it. All I can say is that this CD takes popular Christmas music to a completely new level. The arrangements are just dazzling. The tempos are quick and charming. The balance of singers is impeccable. But above all else, I can't say that I've ever heard a children's choir that is so great. There are moments when your jaw just drops to the floor in astonishment at the beauty.
I say it is popular music, but it is not entirely so. Vitoria is here. And Vaughan Williams. But even the old favorites are completely redone with ear-turning harmonies and transitions. Even the song I dread the most--"Go Tell It on the Mountain"--is actually good here, even bringing a smile to the face of this Christmas-carol crab.
It's not for liturgy but more for home listening, but let's face it: we all must play music at home during Christmas. I think I'll play this one 100 times. It's dreamy. This CD is capable of making me fall in love with the "sounds of Christmas" all over again." - Jeffrey Tucker, October 25, 2007
From The American Guild of Organists, Waterbury, CT Chapter
"Just the other day, I received an email from Pelagos Music. It seems that, apparently, one of the “perks” of being Dean of this great chapter is being asked to review the occasional new CD release! At least that is what Pelagos, which is the music company representing Paul Halley, requested that I do for the Pipeline. Of course this involved actually laying hands on a copy of the CD in question; and so, after my enthusiastic reply in the affirmative, the album arrived. I quickly arranged a listening session in the theater of the Palazzo Vallillo, complete with a steaming cup of my favorite tea, and settled in for a listen.
The names of Paul Halley, Chorus Angelicus, and Gaudeamus should be familiar to any music lover in Connecticut. Halley, one of America’s pre-eminent organists, was actually a member of this chapter for some years. One of the best improvisers around, his musical reputation extends beyond the organ world. The Choral groups he founded and leads, Chorus Angelicus and Gaudeamus, are famous for the marvelous quality of their harmonies. This, their latest album, certainly lives up to this well-deserved reputation. Beautiful choral music is to the ear what fine chocolate is to the palate: a delight to body and soul! When you add in some wonderful organ accompaniments from a master musician, the effect is sublime!
There is a lot of music on this album, 21 pieces in all. For me, some of the selections, although old in a chronological sense, are new. There are also old favorites, many with intriguing new harmonies and, occasionally, melodies, just to keep things interesting! The technical quality of the recording is excellent, and the engineers have done a superb job of capturing the dynamic range from a whisper to a roar. I do wish there were about 5 additional seconds of reverberation after the final chords, but that might have ruined the crisp vocals! As it is, there is an excellent sense of three dimensional depth in the recording, even without “surround” processing in the playback process. The organ is superbly registered and recorded, balancing exactly with the choral voices – never overpowering or being overpowered.
The vocals are sublime – ranging from the hauntingly ethereal to the “joyful noise” for which these groups are known! It is easy to imagine oneself in heaven, or at least in the musician’s suburb of it, when listening to the a-capella selections, particularly in “A Nativity” (track 14).
I cannot give you a favorite selection, I liked them all! If you want to hear some really great organ accompaniment, try “What Child is This?” and “Good King Wenceslaus” in particular and enjoy the perfect balance of the voices with the King of Instruments. There are a few pieces in which I literally could not be sure if the singing was a-capella or organ accompanied – I suspect the latter, but the registration and blending is so good that the organ, if present, becomes literally another voice in the chorus. Now that’s Voix Humaine!
This is an album you could give as a Christmas present to just about any music lover, especially yourself! And the bonus is that the King of Instruments is showcased perfectly in one of its’ major roles – the accompaniment of singers. Thus this album can help to broaden the appeal of our instrument, particularly in the upcoming “Year of the Pipe Organ”. A perfectly timed release indeed! I highly recommend it." - Tony Vallillo, Chapter Dean
from The Journal of the Association of Anglican Musicians
"Paul Halley’s Go Tell It On The Mountain is an exciting and quite challenging arrangement of the familiar text and tune. Rich, jazz-inspired harmonies, carefully scripted syncopations, and a couple of tricky modulations, will keep everyone on their toes, but could well also bring a congregation to its feet.
Also worth mention here, is Halley’s setting of Longfellow’s poem, 'Tis Winter Now. This is a richly atmospheric text not specifically tied to Christmas, but quite handy for a cold week sometime after Epiphany when a ‘general’ anthem seems to be in need. Global warming may soon put this piece out of business, but until it does, Halley’s setting evokes the frigid air as effectively as anything since Vivaldi’s fourth Season."