Classical CD Reviews

KARL JENKINS: Stella Natalis; Joy to the World – Kate Royal, sop./Alison Balsom, trumpet/ Jody K. Jenkins & Zands, percussion/Tenebrae/ Adiemus Singers/ Marylebone Camerata/ Karl Jenkins – EMI Classics

A most attractive new Christmas piece by the famed Karl Jenkins.

Published on November 16, 2012

KARL JENKINS: Stella Natalis; Joy to the World – Kate Royal, sop./Alison Balsom, trumpet/ Jody K. Jenkins & Zands, percussion/Tenebrae/ Adiemus Singers/ Marylebone Camerata/Karl Jenkins – EMI Classics 6 88648 2, 79:33 *****:

This should have been in our feature on Christmas CDs but arrived too late. Actually it deserves to be separately presented this way because I find it the most enjoyable and attractive classical Christmas album to have come our way this season.

Of the two works, the main interest here is the Stella Natalis, which like many of Jenkins’ works, makes use of a wide variety of materials—including in this case Zulu and Hindu texts, Latin and Old Testament scripture. The idea is to support the theme of “the star of origin” with a message of peace, goodwill and compassion for all the peoples of the world. You will find many of the lyrics quite different from the usual liturgical music, for example: “Throw garlands and sing for joy to make all anger cease, only peace.”  The lyrics for this and for most of Jenkins’ choral works (for the most part) come from his wife, Carol Barratt, who reports that—having been married to him for 34 years—”I’m handy and I’m cheap!”

The work is in 12 movements and all the verses appear in the note booklet. The ethnic sounds of the Adiemus choral group are heard in some of the sections, as a counterpoint to the more classical sounds of  the Tenebrae vocalists. There is also ethnic percussion, provided by Jody K. Jenkins (this seems to be a family production) and Zands. Alison Balsom is of course the British trumpeter (trumpetresh?) who has won international acclaim and one of whose CDs we just reviewed.

Joy to the World is a nine-movement choral and orchestral work collecting carols from around the world. The Marylebone Camerata is a group of young London musicians led by cellist Jonathan Byers.  Altogether a wonderful addition to recorded holiday season albums!

—John Sunier




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