ILLUMINE OUR HEARTS
Liturgical and Secular Jewish Choral Music
Ernest Bloch, Ron Nelson, Salamone Rossi, Robert Starer, Frank Ticheli
LESTER SIEGEL, conductor & organist
Schantz Organ (54-Rank Instrument, Installed 1962)
“the performances, it needs to be emphasized, are excellent and for those unbothered by the odd juxtapositions, this too is an appealing concert... nothing dampens my overall enthusiasm for [this] release. The sanctuary of their home church provides a supportive acoustic, and the engineering is clear, providing both detail and body … Seigel’s fine performance of two of Ernest Bloch’s six Preludes for Sabbath deserves special mention. Recommended."
Ronald E. Grames, Fanfare [November/December 2014]
"What really stands out is the choir’s willingness to embrace the many different styles called for in such a varied program... impressive choral singing. "
Greenfield, American Record Guide [July/August 2010]
"Pleasant, well-performed music."
Turok's Choice [No.223; July 2010]
"Sursum Corda definitely whets the appetite for more."
Steven Ritter, Audiophile Audition [July 2010]
"The 167-member group's strength lies its its seamless phrasing and sensitive blending, both qualities that enhance the spiritual impact by creating a sense of authentic belief... Sursum Corda sings the words with warmth and clarity, which engages the meanings of the texts... Jane Seigel makes some exceptionally glorious sounds [in Cuando el Rey Nimrod]... The faultlessly constructed programme provides a welcome opportunity to hear composers and musicians who may not be household names but whose contributions to the country's devotional life...are quietly central to its survival."
Laurence Vittes, Gramophone [July 2010]
"Sursum Corda's debut CD [is] a fascinating excursion through Jewish liturgical and folk music... The group navigates a 16th century psalm setting, a Chanukah folk song and a Sephardic song with spirit and confidence... Seigel's arrangement of "Avinu Malkeinu," and the Ladino (Spanish-Jewish) song, "Cuando El Rey Nimrod," highlight the Middle Eastern exoticism that embraces much of this music. They are at once searching, reverent and celebrative. The choir's greatest assets are its carefully balanced blend... if you select a single track to sample, make it Ticheli's "There Will Be Rest." Its swells, accents and harmonies unfold in chilling beauty... an impressive first effort from a choir that promises to put Birmingham on the choral map."
[ Four Stars out of Five ]
Michael Huebner, The Birmingham News [November 2009]
“Assertive and confident a cappella singing was the rule...More noticeable was the choir’s sublime harmonic blend and shapely dynamics...”
The Birmingham News [December 2008]
“Sursum Corda revealed gorgeous blend, precise diction and impeccable ensemble that director Lester Seigel has been honing since December 2006.”
The Birmingham News [June 2009]
The selections on this disc, while eclectic, represent the wide net Sursum Corda spreads in its mission to bring a variety of Jewish and Christian choral works to its audiences. Our aim with this recording is to offer Jewish works from a variety of Jewish cultures, historical periods and purposes. We include a couple of works from other traditions that we particularly enjoy singing. Sursum Corda takes its name from the Great Thanksgiving prayer in the Christian Eucharistic liturgy; it means “Lift up your hearts.” The selections on this disc have served to “illumine our hearts” – hence our disc’s title - and that is our wish for you as well.
Sursum Corda, based in Birmingham, Alabama, was formed in 2006 as a twelve-member ensemble. Now grown to sixteen, the ensemble has received critical acclaim in for performances ranging from Medieval to modern works. Its conductor, Lester Seigel, is Professor of Music and Director of Choral Activities at Birmingham-Southern College and Organist/Choirmaster at Canterbury United Methodist Church. Jewish music has always been important to Seigel. For many years he was Music Director at Birmingham’s Temple Emanu-El, where he led a professional choir for weekly Shabbat evening services, High Holy Day services, and special performances of major choral works with orchestra. Since its premiere, Sursum Corda has performed annually in Birmingham and toured other cities in the south. Most recently, The Birmingham News in 2009 noted the group’s “strength, individuality and bold transparency.” The press has noted that the group “prides itself on a range of repertoire from the Renaissance to the modern,” and its special affinity for “the dense 20th-century harmonies of contemporary composers such as Ruth Watson Henderson [Missa Brevis], Frank Ticheli [There Will Be Rest, heard on this album] and Morten Lauridsen [Sure on this shining night].” Since its premiere, Sursum Corda has performed often in Birmingham and toured to other cities in the south. In a 2009 review The Birmingham News noted the group’s “strength, individuality and bold transparency... Sursum Corda prides itself on a range of repertoire from the Renaissance to the modern,” and its special affinity for “the dense 20th-century harmonies of contemporary composers.”
Kirk Alford, Ted Clark, Jennifer Faulkner, Virginia Goodall, Allen Harrell, Rebecca Harris, David Higginbotham, Caitlin Huie, Randy Mayo, Stan Nelson, Gloria Parvin, Joy Ryder, Daniel Seigel, Jane Seigel, Alan Taylor and Ellen Thomas
Salamone Rossi (ca.1570-1620)
AL NAHAROT BAVEL
B’TSEIT YISRAEL / IN EXITU ISRAEL
Sephardic/Gregorian chants, arr. Jacobson
Tzvi Avni (b. 1927)
Psalm 47: 1-2, 6, 8
Psalm 48: 2
O KUM, SHOYN SHTILER OVNT
Anon, arr. Mark Zuckerman
Alexander Olshanetsky (1892-1946)
VILNE Arr. M. Zuckerman
Ernest Bloch (1880-1989)
PRELUDE [organ solo]
Robert Starer (1924-2001)
GIVE THANKS UNTO THE LORD
Heinrich Schalit (1886-1976)
Chanukah folksong, arr. S.Prussing
PROCESSIONAL [organ solo]
Isadore Freed (1900-1960)
Frank Ticheli (b.1958)
THERE WILL BE REST
Traditional tune, arr. L.Seigel
Ron Nelson (b.1929)
CAUSE US, O LORD OUR GOD
CREEP ALONG, MOSES
American Folk Song, arr. Gail Kubik
CUANDO EL REY NIMROD
Ladino folk song, arr.Seigel