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“NO WONDER the Taylor Festival Choir has such a stellar reputation. Their concentration, their precision, their passion, and, above all, their unity of sound are unsurpassed.”
— Charleston Today
“Charleston has a world-class choir of its own.”
— American Record Guide
“TFC is simply one of the finest choirs in world.”
— Stephen Paulus
“Powerfully delivered by these committed and accomplished performers…these singers deliver with impressive conviction”
— Musicweb International (Coventry, UK)
“ A true pot o’ musical gold at the end of the holiday rainbow.”
— American Record Guide
”...the event turned out to be such a spectacular display of choral wizardry I felt compelled to tell the public about it.”
— Charleston Today
“Robert Taylor leads his own Taylor Festival choir in a choral feast that will linger long in your memory after you’ve heard it. The music’s spell is enhanced by the accompanying instruments... The exquisite vocal artistry of the 28-member Taylor Festival Singers will take your breath away in stylish, imaginative arrangements of carols and traditionals... The artistry of the choir and vocalists is such as to discourage home listener sing-alongs, though if you’re like me you will be more than content to sit back and enjoy this musical feast. I even liked the Little Drummer Boy, to which I’d been so over-exposed I didn’t think anyone’s version could possibly enchant me.”
— Phil Muse, Audio Society of Atlanta

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"This is a disc of two settings of the Catholic Mass by composers from the Gaelic

countries of the British Isles, performed by an American choir and recorded by an

American label not particularly associated with recordings of church music. That in itself

makes this a fascinating release. But the quality not only of the music but of the music-

making makes this a very special release indeed.

 

Irish composer Michael McGlynn focuses just about exclusively on choral music, and

describes his musical language as combining “Irish and medieval modality with a

contemporary sensibility…fused with jazz-tinged chordal clusters and a distinctive

melodic awareness influenced strongly by traditional Irish singing”. His

Celtic Mass was written between 1989 and 1991 and combines the usual sections of the

liturgical Mass (sung in Latin) with Gaelic verses for the Responsorial Psalm and the

Alleluia Incantations. It is performed here with an instrumental accompaniment which not

only features a virtuoso organ part (wonderfully played by Scott Bennett) but also a

superb string sextet supplemented occasionally by a harp.

The Taylor Festival Choir has been in existence since 2001 and while this disc seems to

have been recorded in two sessions a year apart (the documentation is pretty sketchy in

this area) and with two different groups of singers, conductor Robert Taylor infuses both

the works on this disc with a degree of intensity and visionary zeal which communicates

itself most powerfully in McGlynn’s somewhat misty and

often evocative writing. There are hints of Irish folk music here, passages clearly derived

from traditional Irish singing, and some feeling of the Irish folk music tradition in the

instrumental support. More significant

is a very accessible yet distinctive musical voice, which these singers deliver with

impressive conviction. The combination of Celtic mysticism and Christian fervor proves

to be a heady mix, especially in this opulent and spacious recording. In one word –

lovely!

 

James MacMillan wrote his liturgical setting of the Mass in 2000 for the choir of

Westminster Cathedral. It is, to be pernickety, one of six Mass settings MacMillan has so

far produced (the booklet notes suggest there are only three), and he revised it in 2013;

so we could suggest there are now seven distinct MacMillan Masses. Here, we have the

2000 version, and as such it brings us head-to- head with the Hyperion recording by the

work’s dedicatees recorded in 2001. MacMillan has moved a long way since this work

first appeared, and I wonder now at the strong hints of Duruflé which seem some

distance from MacMillan’s own very personal style. Nevertheless this is deeply affecting

and moving music, once again powerfully delivered by these committed and

accomplished performers.

 

The Mass requires not just a virtuoso organ part – which again is brilliantly brought to

life by Scott Bennett on what sounds to be a very fine organ indeed, even if the

recording does place it rather a long way away for it to make the kind of impact the

Hyperion recording from Westminster does – but also choral singing of

the very highest order. It certainly gets that here, with mature sopranos clearly

challenged – and meeting the challenge head-on – by some of MacMillan’s more

extraordinary writing in the “Gloria”. Most impressive of all is the spell-binding way in

which they build up to the cataclysmic outpouring of waves of joy in the

“Sanctus” (track 15 from around 1:15). Brandon Hendrickson, who sings the words of the

celebrant, is possibly a shade too operatic to be convincing, and one would have liked

something a little less dramatic from him to underscore the liturgical nature of the music

and to contrast it with the often awe-inspiring drama of the choral parts.

 

All told, this is a very impressive performance indeed and one which makes a worthy

addition to the catalogue despite the presence of the outstanding Hyperion disc. Many

will be drawn to this simply because of the polish and intensity Taylor brings to his

readings (and I certainly would not want to be without the McGlynn Celtic Mass), and the

way his choir responds with such potent empathy for the music."

 

-Marc Rochester

 Musicweb-International, London

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"This lovely performance from the Taylor Festival Choir presents two very different but

both profoundly spiritual arrangements of the Catholic Mass. Both of these works display

their composers’ strong Celtic roots. Celtic Mass by Michael McGlynn includes sections

in Irish Gaelic between the traditional Latin phrases. Mass by James MacMillan sets the

movements in English, and includes other liturgical texts that make the work acceptable

for a stand-alone service. The Taylor Festival Choir, conducted by Robert Taylor, has

earned itself a strong reputation for being one of America’s most prestigious

professional choirs."

 

-ArkivMusic Editorial Review

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"These two masses have many points in common. Each is divided into nine parts and

both bask in a serene atmosphere, where meditation and fervor reign – an intimate

fervor, internalized, far different from those masses of the post-romantic era that are

almost always laden with Saint-Sulpician ornaments and heavily backed up with

orchestral effects. On this note, the Scotsman James MacMillan is probably more

inclined than the Irishman Michael McGlynn to seek out simplicity in his melodic lines,

perhaps conscious that the mass, in the Catholic liturgy, is first and foremost the

celebration of its faithful, given form through such parts as the Credo, the Pater Noster

and the Agnus Dei. He is himself a fervent Catholic and – in his various interviews –

does not hesitate to say that all the music that he composes has something sacred about

it and that it is the expression of his deepest religious convictions.

 

The excellence of the recordings of these two contemporary masses owes a great deal

to Robert Taylor, who founded this choir in Charleston, South Carolina and who also

directs the chorus of that city’s symphony orchestra. In keeping with this professional

background, he has revived in particular such little- known choral works of Ralph

Vaughan Williams as An Oxford Elegy and Epithalamion, setting poems by Edmund

Spenser. You will recall that in 1922, the same Ralph Vaughan Williams wrote his

important Mass in G Minor, which contributed to the renewal of British religious music in

the 20th century – and we can rightly place Michael McGlynn’s Celtic Mass and James

MacMillan’s Mass in its wake."

 

-Jean-Baptiste Baronian 

Crescendo Magazine, Belgium

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"Two contrasting settings of the Ordinary of the Mass, both influenced by traditional

Celtic music. Dublin born composer Michael McGlynn has created a setting “seen though

a folk music lens” incorporating a variety of elements: Gaelic texts, Celtic rhythms, and

influences from Dufay to Britten as well as the Bulgarian choral tradition. Amidst the

texts of the Ordinary, McGlynn “tropes” movements in Gaelic and Latin: ‘Codhlaim go

Suan’, ‘Alleluia’, ‘Ave Maria’, ‘Pater Noster’. Scored for choir, soloists, organ, string

quartet, and harp, it displays an inventive and uniquely creative treatment of the texts.

Of particular note is the ethereal Sanctus and the shimmering Agnus Dei, which ends on

a note of uncertainty, suggesting the search for peace continues. Sir James MacMillan, a

prominent Scottish composer, has achieved international status. He has written

music ranging from symphonies and choral-orchestral works to chamber music for

instruments and voices, but choral music stands at the center of his output. He has

stated that “Music seeks out the sacred—in a sense, all music is sacred” and his Mass

reflects his firm grounding in the culture and heritage of his native Scotland, coupled

with his devout Catholic faith. Scored for choir and organ, it is the only one of his three

masses in the vernacular, and it also includes settings of the Celebrant’s part —Sursum

Corda, Preface, Eucharist Prayer, and the Memorial Acclamation. This marvelous music is

mystical, ecstatic, joyous. One wishes to hear it as part of a real celebration of the

Eucharist. The movements are unified by a motive in the tradition of Renaissance Mass

settings—a rising fifth followed by a rising melisma—infusing them with a sense of

yearning. A climax is reached in the Sanctus that combines the motive, contrapuntal

rigor, and virtuosic organ flourishes to create an atmosphere of choral ecstasy. Fine

choir in fine performances. Notes on the music and texts."

 

-Robert Declamp

American Record Guide

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"The Mass requires choral singing of the very highest order. It certainly gets that here,

with mature sopranos clearly challenged – and meeting the challenge head-on – by

some of MacMillan’s more extraordinary writing in the Gloria."

 

-Musicweb International, London

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AN EXTENDED MUSICAL FAMILY

Charleston, May 2018 - These days, everyone from a football coach to your stockbroker insists their operation is a “family” affair. But for some, like Mary and Dr. Robert Taylor, the claim is not a cliché. “We are really passionate about what we do,” says Rob Taylor, founding director of the Taylor Music Group (TMG), a nonprofit performance and educational association. “And we are family."...

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Taylor Festival Choir’s Breathtaking “Oktoberfest”

Charleston, October 30, 2014 - WHEN I SHOWED UP at the Cathedral Church of St. Luke and St. Paul on the afternoon of Sunday, October 5 to catch the Taylor Festival Choir’s (TFC) fall concert, I had no intention of writing a review. But the event turned out to be such a spectacular display of choral wizardry that I felt compelled to tell the public about it... 

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The “Royal” Voices of the Taylor Choir

Charleston, October 5, 2011 - NO WONDER the Taylor Festival Choir has such a stellar reputation. Their concentration, their precision, their passion, and, above all, their unity of  sound are unsurpassed. And then there’s director Robert Taylor’s tasteful flair for the theatrical—this time in the form of the choir’s courtly entrance, striding two-by-two, in measured pace to the music as they entered the church singing...

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An Eclectic Celtic Christmas Concert

Charleston, December 12, 2011 - SATURDAY NIGHT WAS THREE Christmas concerts in one: a healthy dose of choral music, a little foot-stomping fiddlin’, and an Irish-music ensemble featuring a guitarist, singer, and songwriter—all under the creative hand of Robert Taylor in “Now We Sing of Christmas” at the Cathedral of St. Luke andSt. Paul. As usual with the Dr. Taylor’s productions, it was a tasteful, eclectic mix of music in a spirited, entertaining evening...

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Holy, Holy, Holy

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Charleston, September 26, 2010 - WITHIN SECONDS of hearing their first a capella notes, it was clear that we were in for a special performance. The clarity of the voices, the resonance of sound, the depth of emotion that filled the church—and the precision of the whole thing...

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