Chicago a Cappella – Miracle of Miracles, with John William Trotter (Cedille)
“This group is sort of like a SWAT team of vocal ensemble — what shall I say? — superheroes.”
That’s artistic director John William Trotter singing the praises of his ensemble, Chicago a Cappella
“They're all classically trained to a really, really high level,” he says, “and they all have significant stylistic breadth beyond Broadway folk, jazz and pop. Each of them is an outstanding soloist in their own right, and they're really interested in honing their ensemble sound at the same time. That's a really rare combination.”
On the group’s latest recording, Miracle of Miracles, it offers a wide range of music for the Hanukkah season, some of which it has commissioned or premiered.
“We kind of found ourselves accidentally in a position of expertise with this music,” he says. “We've been doing holiday concerts for decades in Chicago, and often composers and arrangers whom we knew would give us like a couple Hanukkah tracks to try. And some of those really stuck. And we liked them.”
The recording opens with “Oh Chanukah,” which is a popular children's song, and it's appeared in many different versions. What does Robert Appelbaum do with this arrangement?
“He builds suspense right from the very opening, and then he does this very hospitable thing that you'll see on a few of the tracks on this recording where the piece itself is bilingual. So you learn some Hebrew words, but you don't have to be able to translate yourself. And then it sort of slows down and arrives in a calm place again at the end.”
“Al Hanisim,” by Joshua Fishbein, is pretty and also powerful. What's happening in this piece?
“This text reflects on the miracles, God's mighty acts in the past and the gratitude of folks who are around now because of those divine interventions. It has a lot of what we call ‘divisi.’ So nearly every singer is singing their own part. And that's why you get those really, really tall, rich harmonies with the moving lines in between. You can think of it as the composer orchestrating the voices.
“We encountered each of these pieces separately over several years. But it's only when we started putting them all together that I started seeing all the different perspectives of Hanukkah — the fun, the dancing, the partying, the quiet contemplation of the candle that doesn't go out; all that richness. It was not something that I'd considered until we were able to bring this all together. And I guess my hope is that to be true for the listener, too.”
Chicago a Cappella (official site)
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