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Album Review

Here's a release for those who enjoy American choral singing of the old school, the Mormon Tabernacle Choir, for example. The music consists of what are known as folk songs, and in fact the arrangement of "Cindy" (track 10) by Mack Wilberg is close to the one he made for the Mormon choristers. The charm of the program, however, lies in the variety of the arrangements, which are all by different composers and range from simple harmonizations to dense jazz-harmony and African-American spiritual treatments, including settings influenced by art song, pop, the British choral tradition (John Rutter's version of Sourwood Mountain may be annoying for some, but it's undeniably arresting), and more. The John Alexander Singers are a 24-member subgroup of the larger Pacific Chorale, a Southern California ensemble. Its style may seem overly cute by this time, but it's fresh, technically spot-on, and genuinely enthusiastic: when the group breaks into shouts to introduce a percussive quasi-dance passage, it doesn't come off as forced or rehearsed. Whether called on to execute gospel-style slides or unadorned intervals, the singers adjust seamlessly and stay on top of the music's shifting styles. The booklet notes explain something of the history of each song and don't shy away from the darker or raunchier aspects present in their histories, although the performances themselves would not suggest those. Generally a well-executed collection of traditional American music.

Shenandoah, John Alexander
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