Ola Gjeilo has a gift for writing choral music of exceeding beauty. And while “Sunrise Mass” showcases Gjeilo’s music, works by other composers are wisely interspersed for variety.
The end result is a choral album that is first-rate in every regard — the choice of material, the cohesiveness of the program, the quality of the recording, and the quality of the performances.
Westminster Williamson Voices is an exceptional ensemble. The voices blend so well that it’s virtually impossible to pick out the individual sections (unless it’s the intent of the music).
That seamless blend and precise voice control help turn Gjeilo’s music into something extraordinary.
The title track, “Sunrise Mass” is a half-hour meditation for choir and string orchestra. The work contracts and expands organically. Sections of long, sustained tones are followed episodes of rhythmic intensity.
Gjeilo’s rich, consonant harmonies give the work a luminosity that completely wins over the listener (well, this one, anyway). Gjeilo’s shorter works on the album share that same quality on a smaller scale.
Director James Jordan wisely leavens all that richness. Included is a Hildegard von Bingen piece, and a Maurice Durufle motet. Von Bingen’s music sound suspended in time (as Gjeilo’s can), and Durufle’s thick harmonies complement Gjeilo’s style.
Also included are arrangements of Felix Mendelssohn motets, and a work by Damijan Mocnik. This Slovenian composer’s style is similar to Gjeilo’s (though perhaps leaning a little towards Arvo Part).
I heartily recommend this release to everyone. This is a masterful recording, both in content and execution.
Ola Gjeilo: Sunrise Mass
Westminster Williamson Voices
James Jordan, conductor