This is a privately produced CD, the third in a series of spiritually inspired recitals (An Angel's Christmas and The Spirit's Quartet described as Songs of Love, Nature, Music and Faith) and although Sara Botkin's 'Heavenly Harmonies' are carried on a pleasant enough voice, neither it nor the musical content maintain any consistent standard. Listening to it gives me a strange feeling of being an intruder on an evening designed to please parents, children, relatives and friends, and not one into which any critical visitor should impose -- or even really be invited -- and this is the problem, for the submission of CDs for review invites just such an intervention.
There is no doubt that Sara Botkin sings proficiently even if rather unpredictably. Her performance of Gounod's Ave Maria is clear and precise, sounding like a first-rate boy chorister
[listen -- track 3, 1:45-2:40],
but in contrast, her version of Breath of Heaven loses all that purity in favour of a less pleasant popular style
[listen -- track 10, 0:26-1:15].
Many of the tracks indulgently use multi-tracking, clever enough though not providing a very musical result, as with two songs from Britten's Ceremony of Carols
[listen -- track 9, 0:52-1:18].
Cesar Franck's Panis Angelicus shares its quality with Gounod, and the multi-tracking of Victoria's O magnum Mysterium and the traditional God rest ye merry, gentlemen are, like Britten, technically more than musically impressive. There are a few popular seasonal songs (like White Christmas, wrongly numbered in the booklet) for which she lapses again and uncomfortably into popular vocal style, and among eight of her own arrangements is a strange version of the central movement from Vivaldi's Seasons -- Winter for violin, harp and her multi-tracked vocal backing.
Sara Botkin also plays piano in this recording, assisted by harp, violin, percussion, bass and, in a poor rendering of Auld Lang Syne, a trumpet. There are no timings for any of the tracks. This seems a CD meant for family and friends, but it is pleasantly entertaining in part.
Copyright © 19 December 2007
Patric Standford, Wakefield UK
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SARA BOTKIN - THE SPIRIT'S QUARTET
Breath of Heaven - A Christmas Collection - Sara Botkin
80767 00430 Stereo NEW RELEASE 62'22" 2007 Sara Botkin
Sara Botkin, vocals, piano; Gretchen Van Hoesen, harp; Mark Huggins, violin; Stephen Hawk, trumpet; Andy Reamer, percussion; Tommy Bellin, bass
John Jacob Niles: Carol of the Birds; Jester Hairston: Mary's Little Boy Chile; J S Bach/Charles Gounod: Ave Maria; Alfred Burt: Some Children See Him; Vince Guaraldi: Christmas Time is Here; Robert MacGimsey: Sweet Little Jesus Boy; traditional, arranged David Willcocks: Tomorrow Shall Be My Dancing Day; Benjamin Britten: As Dew in Aprille; This Little Babe (A Ceremony of Carols); Chris Eaton/Amy Grant: Breath of Heaven (Mary's Song); John Jacob Niles: I Wonder as I Wander; traditional, arranged Sara Botkin: God Rest Ye Merry, Gentlemen; Mendelssohn/French traditional arranged Sara Botkin: Hark! The Herald Angels Sing / Angels We Have Heard on High; English traditional/Johann Pachelbel, arranged Sara Botkin: The First Noël / Pachelbel's Canon; Catalan traditional arranged Thomas Geoghegan: El Noi de la Mare; Basque traditional arranged Julian Smith: Gabriel's Message; Cesar Franck: Panis Angelicus; Tomas Luis de Victoria: O Magnum Mysterium; traditional spiritual arranged Sara Botkin: O Mary and the Baby, Sweet Lamb; Antonio Vivaldi, vocals arranged Sara Botkin: Winter (The Four Seasons); Irving Berlin, vocals arranged Sara Botkin: White Christmas; Robert Burns arranged Sara Botkin: Auld Lang Syne
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