I must put in a recommendation for the recordings of an extraordinary Seattle-based choir called The Esoterics. In doing so I must also declare an interest: the choir recently gave an excellent performance of a new piece of mine, under their musical director Eric Banks, which I was lucky enough to be invited to Seattle to hear. While there, Eric kindly gave me a set of all the choirs recordings, made over the last decade, and I am working my way through them.
The Esoterics is an amateur choir of the highest standard, devoted entirely to performing contemporary choral music from America and around the world, to a very high standard. Their discs are themed – Ru’ia contains music inspired by Islam scripture and poetry, Ourania explores the theme of ‘the heavens’ – and many contain pieces by conductor Eric Banks. His work is learned and carefully conceived, often calling on his polymathic knowledge of foreign languages and cultures, but wears its learning lightly; primarily his music is a sensual experience, building subtly from simple harmonic ideas to textures of great complexity and beauty.
They have recently released a CD of the complete choral music of Samuel Barber, even in a couple of cases making accompanied music a cappella by giving the instrumental parts to singers. A highlight, inevitably, is the arrangement of the Adagio for Strings as an Agnus Dei, but the whole disc is full of surprises and delights.
As an ensemble that deserves to be celebrated around the world I can only suggest you buy their CDs for yourself and your friends. As an introduction to the delights of contemporary choral music they cannot be bettered, and in buying them you will help support The Esoterics work into the future.