Ask composer, singer, violinist and multi-instrumentalist Caleb Burhans about his relationship to the Christian tenets of faith, and he'll give you a thoughtful but conflicted answer. "Despite the fact that I've sung in church choirs for almost twenty years, I'm agnostic," he says. "So a lot of my music deals with my struggles with religion."
Evensong is Burhans' defining statement of his complex connection to the church -- an "emo-classical" epic where sacred meets secular in a pure, dynamic expression of musical influences that range from classical to ambient to post-rock. While the album presents motifs from the Christian church service (book-ended with the opening "Magnificat" and the closing "Nunc Dimittis," recorded with the Trinity Wall Street Choir), it refracts them through the modern lens of new music and the avant garde.
This is Burhans' debut as a lead composer and recording artist, though he has long been recognized as a vital presence on the NYC new music scene. The New York Times has lauded him as "animated and versatile," a "sweet-voiced countertenor," and a "new music virtuoso." He is also a regular member of several groundbreaking groups and ensembles that have helped reshape modern classical music -- among them ACME, Alarm Will Sound, Beyondo, Bleknlok, Escort, itsnotyouitsme, Newspeak, Ensemble Signal and the Wordless Music Orchestra.
Alarm Will Sound, in fact, takes up the secular portion of Evensong, performing three pieces that test the very limits of a large ensemble's expressive capabilities. "oh ye of little faith" is the arguable centerpiece, described by none other than Steve Reich as "a lovely homage to Arvo Part's In Memorium Banjamin Britten." Further on, the Tarab Cello Ensemble infuses "The Things Left Unsaid" with contemplative longing. With whimsical and incisive liner notes by longtime friend, collaborator and guitarist Grey Mcmurray, Evensong marks Burhans' arrival as one of the most promising young composers to emerge from NYC's trial-by-fire proving ground.
Alarm Will Sound - 2, 3, 5
Trinity Wall Street Choir - 1, 4, 7
Tarab Cello Ensemble - 6