For Russia, With Love

CD of Russian sacred music earns Conspirare Grammy nom no. 6

For Russia, With Love

Christmas came a little early for Conspirare this year. On Friday, the Austin-based professional vocal ensemble was handed its sixth Grammy nomination – a nod in the Best Choral Performance category for The Sacred Spirit of Russia, a CD it released on Harmonia Mundi in February.

The recording was drawn from live performances of a program of the same name assembled by Conspirare Artistic Director Craig Hella Johnson, in consultation with Vladimir Morosan, an expert in Russian liturgical music, in January 2013. The music came from a host of composers largely unknown to Americans – Alexandre Gretchaninoff, Alexander Katalsky, Pavel Chesnokov, Georgy Sviridov – and though most were working in the last decades of the 19th century and early decades of the 20th, their music frequently sounds much older. There's an ancient, mystic splendor to the sounds, and Conspirare brought it to Austin with a haunting power that made it intact from St. Martin's Lutheran Church onto disc.

This is the third time the company of voices has been honored with a Best Choral Performance nomination, the others being for Requiem (2006) and Tarik O'Regan: Threshold of Night (2008). Requiem was also nominated for Best Engineered Album and Threshold of Night for Best Classical Album. The ensemble's last nomination before the current one was in the Best Classical Crossover Album category for Company of Voices: Conspirare in Concert (2009).

For those of you who like to handicap such things, the race for this year's Choral Performance Grammy will be tight. As if the competition from the Nidaros Cathdedral Choir of Norway and the BBC Symphony Chorus weren't stiff enough, Conspirare is also up against two groups that made Gramophone magazine's 2011 list of the 20 best choirs in the world: No. 11 Dunedin Consort from Scotland and No. 9 RIAS-Kammerchor from Germany.

But no need to fret yet over who will receive the award. For now, let's just enjoy this early Christmas gift for an exceptional vocal group. And if the news puts you in the mood to hear these voices live, you're in luck: Tonight at 8pm, Conspirare will be performing its annual Christmas program with special guest Ruthie Foster in Dell Hall at the Long Center, 701 W. Riverside. For more information, visit

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Conspirare, Craig Hella Johnson, Sacred Spirit of Russia

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