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Press Releases

New York Polyphony Announces Release of 'Sing Thee Nowell'

August 20, 2014 | By A440 Arts Group
Contact: Paula Mlyn, A440 Arts Group, paula@a440arts, (212)924-3829

NEW YORK, NY – On September 9, 2014, BIS Records releases "Sing Thee Nowell" [BIS-2099] by the GRAMMY®-nominated male classical vocal quartet New York Polyphony. With this album of Christmas music, the group behind one of The New Yorker magazine’s "Top Ten Notable Classical Music Recordings of 2012" brings its signature fusion of refined musicianship and modern approach to a diverse program that combines contemporary works, masterpieces of the Middle Ages and Renaissance, and traditional favorites.

"Sing Thee Nowell" covers the full liturgical Christmas period from the Annunciation to Epiphany. New works by contemporary composers Michael McGlynn, Andrew Smith, and John Scott, as well as arrangements by group members Craig Phillips (as Alexander Craig) and Geoffrey Williams, are paired with carols and motets from the 15th and 16th century by such composers as the Flemish Philippe Verdelot and Spanish master Tomás Luis de Victoria.

The album’s rich holiday variety is anchored by "Five Carols," a collection of settings of medieval melodies and texts by the late British composer Sir Richard Rodney Bennett, expressing the images and moods of the Christmas nativity. For this set, the group is joined by guest sopranos Sarah Brailey and Elizabeth Baber Weaver. Beginning with the season of Advent, the album opens with Andrew Smith’s "Veni Emmanuel," a fascinating reinvention of the famous ninth century chant melody. Andrew Smith also contributes a setting of "Nowell: Arise and Wake," premiered by New York Polyphony with critical acclaim in 2013.

New York Polyphony countertenor Geoffrey Williams’ "Adam lay ybounden" is a satisfying exercise in neo-Medievalism, and his arrangement of "There is no Rose" adds contemporary harmonic color to Samuel Sebastian Wesley’s stately 19th century hymn tune "Hereford." "There is no Rose" is featured in three additional settings, including its original 15th century form from the Trinity College of Cambridge’s Carol Roll, a new setting by composer John Scott, and also in Sir Richard Rodney Bennett’s "Five Carols." The group also presents the ancient 15th century English motet "Nesciens mater" by Byttering followed by Michael McGlynn’s prayer to the Virgin, "O pia virgo mater," specially commissioned for this album.

Alexander Craig (nom de plume of New York Polyphony’s bass Craig Phillips) provides a trio of traditional carols in modern arrangement: "Gabriel’s Message," "Un flambeau, Jeanette, Isabelle," and the beloved American tune "O Little Town of Bethlehem." Craig contributes a wholly original composition as well in his setting of the James Joyce poem "Sleep now, O sleep now," a dulcet cradle song that conjures images of the Virgin and child. The nativity scene is captured as well in both Tomás Luis de Victoria’s celebrated "O magnum mysterium" and the traditional 14th century German folk hymn, "Quem pastores laudavere," in an arrangement by American composer Susan LaBarr.

Situated alongside Richard Pygott’s piercing lullaby, "Quid petis, o fili?" is Peter Warlock’s "Bethlehem Down." For this exquisite carol, a modern lullaby that reconciles the calm of the stable with Christ’s inevitable death, guest sopranos Brailey and Baber Weaver again join the quartet to deliver what is perhaps the most poignant moment of "Sing Thee Nowell."

Adding a contemporary flare to the album, acclaimed typographical artist Craig Ward has created a cover design for "Sing Thee Nowell" that is simultaneously classic and iconic.

On the heels of the release of "Sing Thee Nowell," New York Polyphony begins an extensive North American tour throughout this fall and winter, including a featured early music performance at New York’s Miller Theater on November 15. Entitled “Celebrations from the Mediterranean,” New York Polyphony will explore a range of Spanish liturgical music with works by Guerrero, Morales, and Victoria. For more information and updates, visit New York Polyphony’s website: http://www.newyorkpolyphony.com/.

New York Polyphony (Geoffrey Williams countertenor, Steven Caldicott Wilson tenor, Christopher Dylan Herbert baritone, and Craig Phillips bass) Praised for a “rich, natural sound that’s larger and more complex than the sum of its parts,” (National Public Radio) New York Polyphony is regarded as one of the finest vocal chamber ensembles in the world. The four men “sing with intelligence, subtlety and consummate artistry,” (Richmond Times-Dispatch) applying a distinctly modern touch to repertoire that ranges from austere medieval melodies to cutting-edge contemporary compositions. Their dedication to innovative programming, as well as a focus on rare and rediscovered works, has not only earned New York Polyphony critical acclaim and a devoted following but also helped to move early music into the classical mainstream.

Since its founding in 2006, New York Polyphony has maintained an active performance schedule. The ensemble has toured extensively, participating in major concert series and festivals throughout North America and Europe. Highlights includes Dallas Chamber Music Series; Miller Theatre at Columbia University Early Music Series; Thüringer Bachwochen (Germany); Festival Oude Muziek Utrecht (Netherlands); Vendsyssel Festival (Denmark); Festival de Música de Morelia (Mexico); Elora Festival (Canada); and Choral at Cadogan Hall in London. They have been featured on Performance Today for American Public Media, "Footprints to Paradise: A Medieval Christmas" for Public Radio International, and BBC Radio 3's "In Tune." In December 2011, New York Polyphony made its national television debut on The Martha Stewart Show.

With the 2013 release of its fourth and most recent album "Times go by Turns," "New York Polyphony continues to claim a spot as one of the finest small vocal groups performing today." (Audiophile Audition) The program features Masses by Thomas Tallis and William Byrd, as well as an enigmatic three-voice Mass setting by medieval English composer John Plummer. Three new works written for New York Polyphony by composers Gabriel Jackson, Andrew Smith, and Richard Rodney Bennett complete the sequence. Since its release, "Times go by Turns" has met with strong critical acclaim. In addition to being named one of iTunes 10 Best Classical Releases of 2013, the album garnered a GRAMMY® nomination in the Best Chamber Music / Small Ensemble Performance category.

New York Polyphony released its third album "endBeginning" on BIS Records in early 2012. Featuring rare and never-before recorded works from the Franco-Flemish Renaissance, the album has amassed substantial critical acclaim. Hailed as a “gorgeous, reflective program” by National Public Radio, it was selected as one of the ‘Top Ten Notable Classical Music Recordings of 2012’ by The New Yorker and rated ’10-out-of-10’ by Classics Today.

“A stunning tour through chant, polyphony and renaissance harmonies,” (Minnesota Public Radio) New York Polyphony’s second album "Tudor City" spent three weeks in the Top 10 of Billboard’s classical album chart. It has been featured on Danish Public Radio, American Public Radio and NPR’s All Things Considered.

New York Polyphony’s debut album "I sing the birth" was released in 2007. The disc—an intimate meditation on the Christmas season—garnered unanimous praise. Gramophone named it “one of the season’s best,” BBC Music Magazine selected it as ‘Editor’s Christmas Choice,’ and Classic FM Magazine (UK) deemed it “a disc for all seasons.”

Recent engagements include a debut performance at Wigmore Hall this past January, residencies at Dartmouth College, Stanford University, and Mount Royal University in Calgary, Alberta, a broadcast holiday event for Minnesota Public Radio, and the European premiere of the "Missa Charles Darwin" — a newly commissioned secular Mass setting based on texts of Charles Darwin by composer Gregory Brown—at the Museum für Naturkunde in Berlin, Germany. In January, New York Polyphony participated in the New York premiere of Jonathan Berger’s chamber opera cycle "Visitations" at the PROTOTYPE Festival with soprano Mellissa Hughes and JACK Quartet.

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