Through the Green Fuse

'Through the Green Fuse,' Conspirare's first professional recording, is a shimmering, iridescent prayer in which the beauty of the subject is magnified by the sensitivity and sensuousness of these voices

Through the Green Fuse

Conspirare

Through the Green Fuse

A mere CD can't be expected to capture the sublime pleasures of Conspirare heard live, but Through the Green Fuse, the Austin ensemble's first professional recording, goes a long, long way. It's dense with the qualities that make Conspirare such an astounding choir: sensitivity to text, purity of vocal tone, and, of course, those long, lush harmonies, with voices melding seamlessly into sounds that are achingly lovely.

The pieces selected by Artistic Director Craig Hella Johnson amply demonstrate the company's versatility; Gaelic hymns and African-American spirituals and Finnish anthems, with contemporary sacred music and a little Stephen Foster thrown in for good measure. But they don't feel as if they were included just to be showy. Rather, they share a spirituality, an appreciation of the natural world and its creator, of the heart's boundless capacity to love and, especially, serenity in the soul. Peace is invoked again and again in the songs here, something hoped for, desired, yearned for. As these are largely works of introspection and meditation, where poetic texts ride on haunting melodies and extended lines, delivered with stately tempos in often hushed tones, they form together a prayer, a shimmering, iridescent prayer in which the beauty of the subject, be it hibiscus flowers or Billie Holiday or sleep, seems somehow magnified, intensified by the sensitivity and sensuousness of these voices.

Sometimes the soulfulness of the singing can take your breath away, as when Melissa Givens' soprano wings elegiacally above the low, sustained tones of the choir on William Averitt's "Song for Billie Holiday." Sometimes it can squeeze tears from your eyes, as when the voices softly entwined wind upward, expressing love with unbearable poignance in Paul Ayres' Bible-inspired "Ruth." Sometimes it can still the anxious turning of the mind and instill a blessed calm, as in the deeply soothing, hushed lines that flow through the spiritual "Deep River" and Eric Whitacre's "Sleep."

Always, the singing rings with the natural clarity and ineffable beauty of crystal. On "There Will Be Rest" – one of the recording's most graceful, most tender, and, for this listener, most touching works – Conspirare sings of finding "the crystal of peace." In the piece, it is found in the stars. But it may also be found here, in the artistry of this celestial chorus.

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KEYWORDS FOR THIS STORY

Through the Green Fuse, Conspirare, Craig Hella Johnson, Melissa Givens, William Averitt, Song for Billie Holiday, Paul Ayres, Ruth, Deep River, Eric Whitacre, Sleep

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