Ola Gjeilo: Voices, Piano, Stringsby Ola Gjeilo
The young Norwegian composer Ola Gjeilo (say YAY-lo) studied at the Juilliard School and has lived in New York and Italy. It's not clear how much contemporary Christian music he might have absorbed while in the U.S. (New York is probably not a top market for the genre), but the sacred pieces here contain passages that evoke the so-called praise & worship music within that genre, with light choral polyphony over a backdrop of piano and/or strings. Other pieces lean more toward Philip Glass, and yet others toward a cappella music in John Rutter's more artless vein. How you feel about these models may determine your reaction to Gjeilo, but there's no doubt that he welds these semi-popular styles together skillfully: a piece may begin with a pop piano introduction (played by Gjeilo himself) and then recede to choral melodic material in a chantlike vein. Gjeilo's music is economical and not pompous in the least. Perhaps the most effective piece here, and a place to start sampling, is "Tundra" (track nine), a setting of a text by Charles Anthony Silvestri depicting a slice of Norwegian landscape. The utter simplicity of Gjeilo's music here matches the words, but there is nothing derivative about either of them. The performances by the top-notch choirs Tenebrae and Voces8 are superb. Those interested in choral music in crossover styles will find a distinctive take on that new tradition here.
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