Voices of Angels with the American Boychoir
A sparkling collection of beloved Christmas carols no longer available on American Boychoir recordings plus previously unreleased holiday favorites. Conducted by newly appointed music director Fernando Malvar-Ruiz and music director emeritus James Litton.
“Longtime readers of this journal will be aware that I firmly believe that Christmas carols are best heard from the mouths of roving bands of urchins (and adults, too) singing to shut-ins. Popular carols have achieved the status of folk songs and are rarely improved by expansive and/or sophisticated arrangements. So I tend to be apprehensive when a Christmas album opens with a blare of trumpets. (Except for Bach’s Christmas Oratorio; sue me.) But the fanfare that introduces O Come, All Ye Faithful at the top of the disc is inoffensive, and the brass returns only for a very Handelian arrangement of Joy to the World. Admittedly, the songs on this disc are sung in arrangements that sometimes effectively enlarge them, but the tunes are never obscured. One could actually sing along with much of the disc, though there is enough novelty in the program to sustain interest.
The American Boychoir is an elite institution, and it does not disappoint on this release. The performances are not new, having been recorded in 1992, 2000, and 2001 and assembled in 2004, the year that Fernando Malvar-Ruiz became director of the choir, as a tribute to James Litton, his predecessor and the founder of the choir. Both men are listed as conductors, but there’s no way to determine who conducts what on the disc. No matter; the results are splendid throughout. What we hear is an idealized impression of urchins—except that the choirboys are better, more disciplined singers. And they have the support of expert instrumental accompaniments. What’s not to like?”