Threshold of Grammy?
At the start of the 2007 season, Conspirare captivated audiences in Austin and Houston with a concert of works by the phenomenally gifted (and award-winning) young composer Tarik O'Regan. Now, at the start of the 2008 season, the Grammy-nominated choral ensemble is set to captivate audiences across the globe with a recording of those same works by O'Regan. On Sept. 9, Threshold of Night gets an international release from Harmonia Mundi, and the eminent classical-music label thinks highly enough of the CD – Conspirare's first on Harmonia – to feature the choir on the cover of its September catalog of new releases.
The label's faith in Conspirare is well-placed; this is a recording worthy of attention. A single listen confirms the impression from last year's concerts that this choir and composer are exquisitely matched. Conductor Craig Hella Johnson and his company of voices have the skill to voice all the colors in O'Regan's richly varied musical palette: the densely clustered voices that pull at one another in tense dissonance here and resolve in sumptuous harmonies there, the rhythms that rocket a song along or ease it into a blissful peace. Moreover, they have a feel for the material, for its drama and intensity and the deep spiritual dimension at its foundation. Threshold of Night spends much of its time at death's door, with selections that ponder life's brevity, our remembrance of those lost, and being and not being, but fear not that this recording is gloomy and morbid. On it are moments of ethereal beauty, voices unified in long, sustained lines that bespeak a profound serenity beyond this plane, and also moments of profound urgency, as when the choir rides a herd of galloping strings toward the promise of resurrection. It surges with an insistent, ecstatic joy that shines throughout Conspirare's latest. This is one meditation on mortality that's thrillingly alive.
You can hear it for yourself and meet the composer at a Threshold of Night CD signing with Tarik O'Regan and Craig Hella Johnson on Sunday, Sept. 7, 4pm, at Waterloo Records, 600 N. Lamar. For more information, call 476-5775 or visit www.conspirare.org.