Westminster Williamson Voices
James Jordan, conductor
The Grammy® nominated Westminster Williamson Voices, named for the founder of Westminster Choir College, John Finley Williamson, is praised by reviewers on both sides of the Atlantic. Williamson Voices is the resident choir of the Choral Institute at Oxford (CIO), now in its sixth year. (www.rider.edu/oxford). The CIO has become of the leading institutes in the world for the training of conductors that emphasizes artistry in performance.
SAMPLE and ORDER Silence Into Light, Westminster Williamson Voices' newest recording.
The Williamson Voices, founded by James Jordan, has distinguished itself in the choral world for its distinctive artistry, recordings, educational outreach and its mission to perform new music. The choir is also recognized as a living choral laboratory. It is one of the few ensembles in the world that use chant as the center of their musicianship study and performance. This emphasis has grown out of its performance and study at the Choral Institute at Oxford. The choir has completed a three-year project studying the performance practice and spirituality surround the works of Arvo Pär, which culminated in the performance of his monumental Kanon Pokajanen in the fall of 2017. Williamson Voices was the first college choir to be a part of The Metropolitan Museum’s LiveArts series, and it performed in museum’s Temple of Dendur in partnership with the Arvo Pärt Project.
Reviewers on both sides of the Atlantic are of one voice in praising the ensemble for its world premiere recordings on the Naxos label. Gramophone magazine has described the Westminster Williamson Voices as an ensemble of “intimate and forceful choral artistry,” with a tone that is “controlled and silken in sustained phrases as they are vibrantly sonorous in extroverted material.” American Record Guide praised the ensemble as “without peer.” Choral Journal has described the Westminster Williamson Voices an ensemble of “supreme artistry” and a choir that performs with “truth and precision.” The Arvo Pärt Project’s publication has written: “The Westminster Williamson Voices under his (Jordan’s) direction are coming into their own in the American choral scene both here and abroad.”
In July, 2013, The Williamson Voices performed as part of the world-wide Britten 100 celebration, participating in the 50th anniversary re-enactment performance of the premiere of St. Nicolas in the Lancing College Chapel in Sussex where the work was premiered with the composer conducting. In 2013, the choir also gave its UK debut performance at Oxford as part of the Westminster Choral Institute at Oxford and the SJE Artist series. In 2015 the choir performed Bernstein’s Chichester Psalms under the baton of the newly appointed music director of New York’s St. Thomas Church, Daniel Hyde, on the day of the 50th Anniversary of the work’s premiere. This past summer, Williamson Voices presented the finale concert at the Oxford International Choral Festival, following Cinqucento, The Magdalen College Choir of Oxford and Tenebrae.
The ensemble has established itself as a voice of composers of our time, and it has been acclaimed for its creative programming and collaborations with other art forms. Most notable were the ensemble’s performance at The Philadelphia Cathedral of Eric Whitacre’s Leonardo Dreams of His Flying Machine with the renowned Spiral Q Puppet Theater and the premiere of James Whitbourn’s Luminosity with The ArcheDream Blacklight Dance Theater Company of Philadelphia.
The choir has premiered more than 40 choral works and presented several early performances and premieres by noted composers Jackson Hill, William Duckworth, Paul Mealor, Tarik O’Regan, Roger Ames,, Blake Henson, Jaakko Mäntyjärvi, Ugis Praulins, Gerald Custer, James Whitbourn, Thomas LaVoy, Cortlandt Matthews and Kile Smith, Damijan Mocnik, and Dan Forrest. The choir has premiered three major works by British composer James Whitbourn that have attracted international attention. In 2007, it performed the world premiere of the chamber version of Annelies, the first major choral setting of the diary of Anne Frank. In 2008, it shared in a commission of Luminosity, a work for triple choir, dancers, viola solo, organ and tanpura. In 2010, the choir premiered Whitbourn’s Requiem Canticorum. Past seasons have also included performances of Debussy’s Nocturnes with The Princeton Symphony Orchestra conducted by Rossen Milanov. In 2013, the choir performed the US premiere in New York of Paul Mealor’s Crucifixus for choir, orchestra and baritone soloist. In April 2014, the choir made its Lincoln Center debut at Alice Tully Hall performing James Whitbourn’s Annelies.
The choir has assembled an impressive recorded discography. It has recorded more than 30 choral masterworks on the Teaching Music through Performance CD box sets that are used by conductors around the world. The ensemble can also be seen and heard in the DVD The Empowered Choral Rehearsal: Choral Masterclasses with Simon Carrington. It has six world premiere recordings to its credit, including its 2011 recording on the Naxos label, Living Voices: The Music of James Whitbourn. James Whitbourn’s Annelies, performed with The Lincoln Trio; Arianna Zukerman, soprano, and Bharat Chandra, clarinet, was released by Naxos in 2013. London’s Guardian newspaper wrote about the recording “The performance as a whole…is well prepared and palpably committed as befits a premiere recording.” Gramophone lauded Williamson Voices on the Annelies recording as “exhilarating” and described the ensemble as singing “with a precision and finesse normally found in the best of the UK’s large chamber choirs.”
In 2016, the choir released its third recording on the Naxos label, a recording of Christmas music featuring the Missa Carolae of James Whitbourn, which is performed each year at the Westminster Choir College’s An Evening of Readings and Carols concert, as well as the CD Hole in the Sky on the GIAChoralworks label distributed by Naxos. Both CDs were No. 1 on the Amazon Classical Charts, and both appeared at the top of the BILLBOARD Classical Charts. In February 2018 Silence into Light was released on the GIAChoralworks label. A disc featuring the music of Ola Gjeilo will be released in the fall.
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Grammy-nominated conductor James Jordan is recognized and praised throughout the musical world as one of America’s pre-eminent conductors, writers, music psychologists and innovators in choral music. He was described as a “visionary” by The Choral Journal, which cited his book Evoking Sound as a “must read.” His more than 40 books explore both the philosophical and spiritual basis of musicianship, as well as aspects of choral rehearsal teaching and learning and are considered to be essential books in the conducting profession.