All Things Common: Music of Tarik O'Regan (2020)

O'Regan

Pacific Chorale, Salastina, Robert Istad

Robert Istad

Working with conductor and Pacific Chorale music director Robert Istad is always a pleasure.  When he asked Yarlung to record his debut album with Pacific Chorale performing music by Tarik O’Regan, I knew we were in for a treat.  I loved the acoustics at The Soraya, where we recorded Nostos with Rob, but for Pacific Chorale, we were able to work in magnificent Samueli Theater at Costa Mesa’s Segerstrom Center for the Arts, where Pacific Chorale is a resident company.  I always enjoy making recordings in Samueli Theater, with fabulous and adjustable acoustics, silent air conditioning and lights, and a theater staff that treats our Yarlung crew like returning royalty.

The wonderful Lenora Meister, long a singer with Pacific Chorale herself, not only commissioned Facing West, recorded for the first time on this album, but she underwrote and served as executive director for our project.

String players from Salastina joined Pacific Chorale for some of the repertoire on our album.  Salastina musicians included co-directors Maia Jasper White and Kevin Kumar on violins; Meredith Crawford, viola; Charles Tyler, cello; and Eric Shetzen, bass.  Beyond their roles with Salastina, many listeners will know Meredith Crawford as principal viola in the Pacific Symphony at Segerstrom Center for the Arts, and Maia Jasper White as a member of the Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra and as Martin Chalifour’s violin partner playing Schoenberg in Yarlung’s Martin Chalifour in Walt Disney Concert Hall.

Writing about Rob and Pacific Chorale, Tarik commented in our liner notes “Working with Robert Istad and Pacific Chorale… has been an especially important experience for me…. The composition comes to life measure by measure, brick by brick, until eventually it stands free, breathing and swaying ever so slightly from the breezes of subtle interpretations and gentle inflexions. This is the magic in the air….”

-- Bob Attiyeh, Producer

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Robert Istad

Robert Istad is Music Director of the Pacific Chorale. He is professor of Music and Director of Choral Studies at California State University, Fullerton. He is also Artistic Director of the Long Beach Camerata Singers and Long Beach Bach Festival.

Istad received his Bachelor of Arts degree in music from Augustana College in Rock Island, Illinois, his Master of Music degree in choral conducting from California State University, Fullerton, and his Doctor of Musical Arts degree in choral music at the University of Southern California. He studied conducting with Dr. William Dehning, John Alexander and Dr. Jon Hurty. 

Istad serves as President of the California chapter of the American Choral Director’s Association, and is in demand as an adjudicator, guest conductor, speaker and clinician throughout the nation.

Istad was recognized as Professor of the Year in 2016 and he has prepared choruses for a number of American’s finest conductors and orchestras; including Gustavo Dudamel  and the Los Angeles Philharmonic, Carl St. Clair and the Pacific Symphony Orchestra and many others. 

photo by Alex Koppel (delivered by label)

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All Things Common: Music of Tarik O'Regan (2020)

O'Regan

Pacific Chorale, Salastina, Robert Istad

    Voice of OC

The Pacific Chorale, who are still uncertain about when they will be able to perform again, offers the latest works by Tarik O’Regan on their new album. The fluent and sumptuous recording is worth a listen. The Pacific Chorale’s latest recording, its first under artistic director Robert Istad, has come out just in time for the COVID crisis, which is to say that the musicians have something to offer their public at a moment when they cannot meet face to face. (The Chorale has canceled its annual summer choral festival; plans for performances in the fall are still uncertain.) The recording, on Yarlung Records, of music by Tarik O’Regan, the group’s composer-in-residence, is a striking one, and should keep that public happy. The Chorale has long done good service by living composers, and this disc continues it. Born in London in 1978, O’Regan is a prolific composer who has written in many genres and has been performed widely. His opera, “The Phoenix,” based on the life of Mozart’s librettist, Lorenzo Da Ponte, was given its premiere by Houston Grand Opera last year. He studied music at both Oxford and Cambridge and the strong choral traditions there seem to have rubbed off on him — his catalog of choral works is especially large. The Chorale’s recording brings together seven of his choral works, dating from 2001 to 2019. The music reminds my ears, at times, of that of Henryk Gorecki (just here and there), of Benjamin Britten, and of choral music heard on labels such as Harmonia Mundi and ECM. He is an articulate and communicative composer. First, there are the texts he chooses to set here, from the Bible (King James) and liturgy, but also by Walt Whitman, Edgar Allan Poe, D.H. Lawrence and a couple of others, wonderful texts. His musical style is firmly tonal, inspired by Renaissance vocal writing, certain aspects of minimalism, and I suppose the Anglican choral tradition, too. At any rate, he handles the choir with panache; there seems not an unpolished moment in any of these pieces, and many a ravishing one, as O’Regan is a choral “orchestrator,” which is to say, he gets many different sounds out of combining his singers in various ways, often to piquant effect. In the opening, and title, work of the recording, “All Things Common,” the words “Every kingdom divided against itself is brought to desolation” (from Luke) are set in close rhythmic and melodic canon (very quick imitations, like echoes) that expresses the fractured nature of the phrase. In “Turn,” setting a celestial poem by Albert Verwey, a repeated rhythmic pattern “turns” over and over, giving the music a flowing, spinning feeling, like a planet in the night sky. O’Regan creates layers of sound in many of his pieces, different strata that unfurl simultaneously but that remain distinct. His “Ecstasies Above,” based on Poe’s poem and the longest piece in the collection, is written for two solo vocal quartets, chorus and string quartet, and gives him many opportunities for spatial effects. The string quartet juices the music rhythmically, even suggesting a touch of Bluegrass. Perhaps the “Magnificat & Nunc Dimittis” shows off O’Regan’s chops mostly blatantly — combining canons, minimalism, plainchant, a vocal quartet, full choir, and solo cello in a wonderfully broad sound palette. He was still in his early 20s when he wrote it and can be forgiven for showing his mettle. Still, the piece hangs together. One of the greatest pleasures of this album though is the simplest and shortest, “I Listen to the Stillness of You,” a brief a cappella setting from Lawrence’s “Amores,” just hushed, sustained chordal harmonies, sometimes far-flung, whispering in your ear. The recording was made in May of last year, shortly after the Chorale gave a public performance of O’Regan’s work. Istad selected 24 of his 140 Chorale singers for the album, and they were joined by a quintet of strings from the Salastina Music Society. (O’Regan uses the strings most effectively.) Along with the folks from Yarlung, they all headed into the intimate confines of the Samueli Theater at the Segerstrom Center for the Performing Arts. Yarlung, an audiophile outfit — one of the microphones used here was once owned by Frank Sinatra — captured it all vividly, with clarity and space and warmth. Istad fashions fluent and sumptuous readings, nicely held together over the long haul. Each piece is represented by a single take on the recording, no splices. Minor blemishes are therefore heard here and there, but more is gained by leaving them in, a feeling of a real performance. In the department of having to complain about something, a minor irritation: The album booklet is helpful and informative, but a listener has to go online to read program notes on the pieces themselves, a cumbersome extra step, at least for me.

Timothy Mangan[read full review]

    Los Angeles and Orange County Audio Society

The Very Best Choral Sound Ever Recorded and a Must Own Reference!

Bob Levi

All Things Common: Music of Tarik O'Regan (2020)

O'Regan

Pacific Chorale, Salastina, Robert Istad

Digital Converters: Hapi, Merging Technologies
Executive Producer: Arian Jansen
Mastering Engineer: Steve Hoffman & Bob Attiyeh (Stereo & Surround Sound), Tom Caulfield (DSD Stereo & DSD Surround Sound)
Mic Preamps: Mic Preamps by Elliot Midwood
Microphone Technician: David Bock
Microphones: Ted Ancona’s famous “Frank Sinatra” AKG C-24 vacuum tube stereo microphone and two additional mid-hall Ted Ancona Schoeps M222 vacuum tube omnidirectional mono microphones from Ancona Audio
Notes: DSD 512 Stereo files created by Tom Caulfield at the NativeDSD Mastering Lab using Jussi Laako's "EC" modulators from Signalyst HQ Player Pro 4 Mastering Software
Producer: Bob Attiyeh
Recording Engineer: Bob Attiyeh and Arian Jansen
Recording Location: Samueli Theater, Segerstrom Center for the Arts in Costa Mesa, California on May 20th and 21st, 2019
Recording Software: Pyramix, Merging Technologies
Recording Type & Bit Rate: DSD 256 (Stereo and Surround Sound)

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YAR02592DSD: All Things Common: Music of Tarik O'Regan
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Tracks.
1.
All Things Common
O'Regan
00:05:02   N/A
2.
Blessed Are They
O'Regan
00:04:47   N/A
3.
Magnificat and Nunc Dimittis
O'Regan
00:14:58   N/A
4.
Turn
O'Regan
00:04:57   N/A
5.
Facing West
O'Regan
00:05:43   N/A
6.
The Ecstasies Above
O'Regan
00:19:39   N/A
7.
I Listen to the Stillness of You
O'Regan
00:03:51   N/A

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