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New York Polyphony’s Times Go by Turns a rich and varied tapestry: CD review

09.03.13
New York Polyphony
Toronto Star

By John Terauds

Geoffrey Williams, Steven Caldicott Wilson, Christopher Dylan Herbert and Craig Phillips's voices as clear as a mountain lake

Geoffrey Williams, Steven Caldicott Wilson, Christopher Dylan Herbert and Craig Phillips are here to set your heart aflutter. This hip, Big Apple a cappella vocal quartet backs up style with deep musical substance, so much so that this boy band has given Renaissance music a popular attraction it hasn’t enjoyed since the heyday of the King’s Singers more than a generation ago.

New York Polyphony’s second album for the BIS label borrows its title from a 16th-century Jesuit martyr. The sacred works here span the often bloody transition from Roman Catholicism to Anglicanism in England, unfolding a rich and varied tapestry of polyphonic writing for four voices.

The oldest composer represented is John Plummer, from the 14th century, whose compositions were largely destroyed along with the Catholic Church in England nearly two centuries later.

English 16th-century masters William Byrd and Thomas Tallis (of 40 Part Motet fame) make up the backbone of this album. And New York Polyphony commissioned three responses from 21st-century composers to complete the disc.

Even though there are only four voices at work, they are as clear as a mountain lake, as balanced as Big Ben’s clockwork and as seductive as a Top Chef tasting menu. And you don’t have to be a churchgoer to have a mystical experience with this music.