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Kline: John the Revelator - A Mass for Six Voices

4.3 out of 5 stars 6 customer reviews

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Audio CD, May 12, 2009
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Editorial Reviews

John the Revelator is a full-length choral Mass which finds roots in Kline's childhood memories of Gospel Blues and rural camp revival meetings. Kline cites Renaissance music, Bruckner, the Beach Boys and Samuel Beckett as influences. The New York Tims writes that this offbeat but ultimately moving ceremony suggests the tonal richness of Barber, the austerity of Stravinsky, and the harmonic piquancy of Ligeti.
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Product Details

  • Composer: Phil Kline
  • Audio CD (May 12, 2009)
  • Number of Discs: 1
  • Label: Cantaloupe
  • ASIN: B001SO69U2
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (6 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #409,708 in Music (See Top 100 in Music)

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The composer, Phil Klines' comments concerning this recording: "The ritual of the Mass itself is a kind of spiritual portal through which one can become part of a universal body...in the process of discovery I wished to pass unburdened by a rigid plan, formal or stylistic. This is NOT a "blues" Mass any more than it is a medieval one. My concept was to set the traditional Latin Ordinary (parts of the Mass that remain the same from week-to-week) for Chorus alone, and to add my own set of Propers (the parts that change from season to season) using a variety of texts, and to have these sections accompanied by the string quartet."

The chosen texts suggest a narrative of redemption in a blighted world, the origins of which are from the Old Testament, including two from the Lamentations of Jeremiah. Interestingly, rather than choosing the New Testament apocalypse of Revelation, Kline chose from the American poet David Shapiro, whose image of indifferently falling snow recalls the ashes falling from the skies of Lower Manhatten; thus emerges the text for the Movement #6 "The Snow Fell". Samuel Beckett's monologue emerges as a prayer in the Movement #8 "The Unnamable" which magnificently portrays the struggle of the mind in present times. Movement #9 "Dark Was the Night" has no audible text; it is a fantasy on Willie Johnson's 1927 recording of an old hymn depicting Jesus' doubt at the Passion, paraphrased in wordless meaning.

Bookending the Mass are Kline's settings of two Early American shape-note hymns from THE SACRED HARP: Northport & Wondrous Love.
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Phil Kline's preferred "flat" vocal affect may be off-putting to folks unfamiliar with it, but if this is new to you, just download any of the "ordinary" parts of this mass and listen to the stunning skill in the singing. Once that sinks in, start listening for the creative blending of harmonics and then styles. Finally, listen for the wonderful, unique spirituality that suffuses this great piece, especially in the contexts Kline creates. Others write intelligently elsewhere of Kline's musical influences, but no one can deny the unique beauty of his compositions. A great work.
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This is the work that introduced me to Phil Kline; I heard this on WQXR Q2 awhile back, and I was awestruck by the powerful compositions. After I bought this CD, ripped it, and put it on my ipod, I felt shivers run up and down my spine on the first two listens on the train. Beautiful, haunted, and harmonically rich, this is definitely a worthwhile purchase.
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Kline: John the Revelator - A Mass for Six Voices
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