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“Testimony” & “First Noel,” Essential Voices USA Holiday Gifts that Keep on Giving
by Sherri Rase      |   follow us...

   
photo by Bruce-Michael Gelbert
First Noel artwork, Judith Clurman & Stephen Schwartz, Testimony artwork
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This year, there is so much for which to be grateful, despite the challenges we continue to face. Judith Clurman and Essential Voices USA (EVUSA) continue to provide us with inspiration in works classic and new that give us the energy and the courage to challenge the New Year as much as it holds challenge for us.
The latest release of “The First Noel” is a brand new arrangement of the traditional English carol, created for the ensemble by David Chase, whom the sharp-eared will know from his work as Music Director and Arranger for the Radio City Christmas Spectacular, the Boston Pops, and the Tanglewood Festival Chorus in past years. Chase knows how to write for voices and especially the voices of EVUSA. The arrangement includes modern open harmonies, reminiscent of moonlight on snow, and the light tintinnabulations in James Cunningham’s piano give us the feel and the hush of falling snow. The human timbre of Daniel Miller’s cello adds the voice of a mezzo-bari angel to the lyrical mix. It’s truly perfect not only for Christmas, but throughout the winter, whenever we need peace and space. Clurman’s direction of EVUSA, on this download, is beautiful and sensitive, simply a delight.
Stephen Schwartz’ “Testimony,” released as a one-song CD, immediately before the Holidays, cuts to the heart of what every person who has ever felt fundamentally different, in a way that is not societally normative. Whether coming out to one’s self as a person in the LGBTQ community or being of a different philosophy or spiritual practice, there are times when we feel that we are the only one, a lonely voice in the wilderness, who has no one in whom to confide. We become convinced that we are alone and that our loved ones will shrink from us, if they know the truth that we can no longer bear to hide, from ourselves or the world. While the somber start articulates that sense of “other,” the unwilling compliance with the world that is inimical to the true expression of one’s authentic self, there is the well-articulated self-loathing, the prayers for removal from this existence that break the hearts of loved ones. About halfway through, the epiphany occurs that many of us have had, the glimmer in the darkness that gives us the courage to move forward, to shed the past in order to break through to what we are meant to be. What gives the caterpillar the courage to endure the chrysalis, not knowing the butterfly is to come? The affect of this post-Modern expression of the sense of being utterly alone and afraid, then realizing there is light and love, was originally inspired by and written as an expression for the “It Gets Better” campaign and was premiered in 2012 by the San Francisco Gay Men’s Chorus, later debuted by EVUSA in the World Premiere of the mixed chorus version in 2013 at Carnegie Hall. This recording brings Cunningham’s beautifully skilled piano together with Clurman’s choral sensitivity with the rich tapestry of EVUSA, with added delight with students from the Manhattan School of Music Musical Theater program. This is something to gift to yourself, as well as to those who are just beginning their journey to an authentic life. Schwartz and Clurman know how to tell a story, and they work in vocal color like Da Vinci did in oils. Clurman and EVUSA are justifiably proud of this recording and plan to do anti-bullying workshops in New York City schools with Schwartz Treat yourself and those you love. Learn more at Essential Voices USA’s website, www.EssentialVoicesUSA.com today! Both new releases are available through Amazon, iTunes, and elsewhere.

 

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