Benjamin Britten’s “A Hymn to the Virgin”: VOCES8

Benjamin Britten composed A Hymn to the Virgin at the age of 16 while a student at Gresham’s School in Norfolk, England. Yet there is nothing remotely youthful or immature about this brief work for unaccompanied double chorus. It unfolds with a sense of haunting mystery and quiet lament that seems timeless. The anonymous text, dating from around 1300, comes from the Oxford Book of English Verse. In an expansive, antiphonal dialogue, the main chorus sings in …

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“Winter”: VOCES8’s Newest Album

For those of us in the Northern Hemisphere, today is the first day of winter. It’s a great time to grab a cup of hot chocolate and listen to the newest album of the UK-based a cappella group VOCES8, simply titled, Winter. The album, which came out in October, is a collection of glistening, snow-covered choral soundscapes. Plainscapes I, II, and III by Peteris Vasks (b. 1946) takes us to the frigid desolation of the forests of Latvia. The opening …

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Lux: VOCES8’s New Recording

  “Lux,” a recently released recording by the British vocal ensemble, VOCES8, revels in the naturally expressive beauty of the human voice. The album title refers to the Latin word for “light.” The group’s exceptional sense of blend and pure intonation produces warm, glowing overtones. “Lux” includes a mix of old and new. O Nata Lux by English composer Thomas Tallis (c. 1505-1585) and settings of the ancient Gregorian melody Ubi Caritas by Paul Mealor and Ola Gjeilo are …

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