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As Water Ascends to a Cloud: Music by Pacific Northwest Composers

Thomas Lerew, ACDA Choral Journal, Recorded Sound Reviews, August, 2015

As Water Ascends to a Cloud:
Music by Pacific Northwest Composers
Opus 7 Vocal Ensemble
Loren W. Pontén, conductor
Gothic G-49285 (2013; 73’48”)

As Water Ascends to a Cloud features a plethora of compositional styles and genres by composers of the Pacific Northwest United States and Canada, masterfully recorded by Loren Pontén and the Opus 7 Vocal Ensemble. According to the CD notes, “This CD is an anthology of choral works…that represents the diverse cultural, social, and geographical influences of the region.” Many of the texts are based on excerpted poems or traditional folk tunes. Of the seventeen works included in this album, eleven are world-premiere recordings, and nearly half were composed specifically for Opus 7. The twelve composers on the disc include David Asplin, William Bergsma, Stephen Thomas Cavit, Lorri Kristin Froggét, Ron Jeffers, Bern Herbolsheimer, Alan Hovhaness, John Muehleisen, Robert Scandrett, Roupen Shakarian, and Joan Szymko.

The ensemble exhibits considerable flexibility and understanding in accommodating the diverse styles and textures encountered. Opus 7 utilizes nuanced contrast in tone between genres, from the pinpoint intonation of the centerpiece work As Water Ascends to a Cloud to the playful, tongue-in-cheek Eat Your Vegetables! and the esoteric sonorities of Ubi caritas. The use of trumpet, clarinet, and organ adds to the sonic variety of the album as well.

Opus 7 brings the highest level of artistry to an eclectic mix of contemporary compositions in this recording. Chorus America and ASCAP have both recognized Opus 7 for its “adventurous programming” and performance excellence. Further program notes on the individual works of this album can also be found through Gothic Recordings at http://www.

Thomas Lerew
Tucson, Arizona

Dream come true

Sean MacLean, Radio Host & Producer, 98.1 Classical King FM Northwest Focus, October, 2014

Dear Opus 7,

I’m still recovering from Saturday night.  You made a dream come true for me, and, I imagine, all the other composers on the program as well!

Your performance was so luminous, reverent, and warm. Read more…

Celebrating Seattle’s choral music community

Robert Bode, Choral Arts director, The Gathering Note, April, 2010

…Opus 7 dazzled audiences this season with neglected music by Martinu and Villa Lobos…

Opus 7 celebrates Christmas at St. James

R. M. Campbell, The Gathering Note, December, 2009

Opus 7, one of the most esteemed musical groups anywhere, has little interest in musical trinkets of the season, at least this year. At its annual Christmas concert Sunday night at St James Cathedral, the vocal ensemble looked to Mendelssohn as well as Einojuhani Rautavaara and Georg Schumann instead. All proved to be fascinating. Read more…

Mendelssohn, Purcell and Handel

Zach Carstensen, The Gathering Note, March, 2009

Opus 7’s enticing program of Mendelssohn, Purcell and Handel, while planned months ago, was the perfect antidote to today’s unremittingly bad news, what you might call comfort food for the mind. Read more…

Opus 7 delivered a powerful message of peace

Philippa Kiraly, Special to the Seattle P-I, April, 2008

MUSIC REVIEW WHEN: Saturday night WHERE: St. James Cathedral Opus 7′s performance at St. James Cathedral Saturday night was in perfect harmony with the visit of the Dalai Lama. Thoughtfully designed and titled “Blessed Are the Peacemakers,” the program drew on works that explored aspects of peace and reconciliation. Cumulatively through the performance, they built a powerful, moving message. Read more…

City A Go Go Minis: Opus 7

City A Go Go, Seattle Channel, March, 2007

Founded in 1992, Opus 7 is a professional resident vocal ensemble at St. James Cathedral that focuses on music from Northwest composers. Click to view this short video:  Read more…

Let Us Sing Sweet Songs

Lindsay Koob, American Record Guide, January, 2005

I’ve encountered the very appealing music of Seattle-based Bern Herbolsheimer before in American collections; how delightful to now have an entire album devoted to him. He writes in many forms and genres, but has a particular soft spot for vocal music. Having lived, worked, and played in the Pacific Northwest for some years, I immediately picked up on the mystical aura of the region’s wondrous natural beauty suffusing his work Read more…

CD3 thank you

Bern Herbolsheimer, June, 2004

Dear all-involved-with-CD3,

I want to thank you all and I don’t know where to start or finish.  To begin with, I am daily overwhelmed, as I listen to CD3, at the beauty and excellence of the performances.  Thank you. Read more…

From Captivity to the Holy City

CD purchaser, March, 2004

I have just received from you the CD “From Captivity to the Holy City.” Opus 7’s program is musically exciting, interestingly riveting and totally satisfying. Thank you!

From Captivity to the Holy City

Victor Hill, Ph.D., The Journal of the Association of Anglican Musicians, September, 2003

The title refers to music for the progression from Ash Wednesday to Pentecost, though many of the selections have wider possible use. For example, the marvelous (albeit challenging) Chichester Mass of William Albright that opens the disc could be used at almost any time. Read more…

Christopher DeLaurenti

Christopher DeLaurenti, The Stranger, March, 2003

This resplendent vocal ensemble performs two major works by Northwest composers, Seven Last Words by Bern Herbolsheimer, and the world premiere of Stabat Mater, by Opus 7 composer-in-residence John Muehleisen. Also on the program is choral music by Mendelssohn, Brahms, Dupré, and Grechaninov. (And for those keeping track, thanks to the readers who e-mailed me adjectives for this group last December. I’m saving them for warmer weather.) St. James Cathedral, 804 Ninth Ave, 782-2899, 8 pm, $17.

R. M. Campbell, P-I

R. M. Campbell, Music Critic, Seattle Post-Intelligencer, May, 2002

Opus 7 has been celebrating its 10th year of business all season, which concluded this weekend with a pair of concerts.

And rightly so. Along with a handful of other vocal ensembles, Opus 7 is one of the reasons some might say Seattle is in a golden age of choral singing. Not only does good singing abound, the music heard is incredibly diverse, covering century upon century of vocal tradition from the distant Byzantines to 21st century America. Read more…

From Captivity to the Holy City

David Denton, Fanfare, March, 2001

“This is very adventurous” is usually the critic’s way of saying that he doesn’t think a particular recording has much chance of selling, but in this case the words are intended as a strong recommendation. It is certainly a courageous choice of music, and provides the wide and varied program you would welcome in concert performances. Read more…

Climbing into Loft Recordings

James Reel, Fanfare, September, 2000

… Only a few loyal attendants do what they can to make the organ’s voice heard throughout the land, and one of those devotees is Roger Sherman, proprietor of Loft Recordings. Read more…

O Rising Dawn

J. F. Weber, Fanfare, September, 2000

[Opus 7] makes a difference by concentrating on a cappella choral music of the last two centuries in its professional concert programs. The disc runs the gamut from Kodály’s Veni, veni Emmanuel and Britten’s Boy was Born (only the opening section) to a local composer, John Muehleisen. Read more…

The Stranger Guide to Seattle

Sasquatch Books, The Stranger Guide to Seattle, June, 2000

The ensemble-in-residence for the imposingly towered St. James Cathedral offers a fine reminder that whatever excesses Christians of all stripes have committed in the name of God, they’ve also made possible some lovely music. Read more…

1 April 2000 “All Northwest”

Philippa Kiraly, Special to the Seattle P-I, April, 2000

Opus 7’s Northwest roots blossom into pure harmony

Imagine an entire choral concert of music written recently in the Northwest, with only a couple written before 1980. Then imagine a large, interested audience to hear it. Unusual, you’ll agree. Read more…

O Rising Dawn

Melinda Bargreen, Seattle Times, December, 1999

Recorded in St. James Cathedral, this excellent holiday disc includes artful, high quality arrangements and originals by Distler, Kodály, Howells, Ives, Britten, Finzi and several others, with Loren Pontén leading the very fine and musical chorus Opus 7. Of particular interest here is John Muehleisen’s The Great ‘O’ Antiphons, imaginatively harmonized and beautifully realized in these performances.

O Rising Dawn

Seattle Times, December, 1999

The excellent Opus 7 Vocal Ensemble, whose recordings on the Loft label demonstrate their smooth blend and musicianship under the direction of Loren Pontén.

Preview – The Full Moon Was Rising

Bruce Reid, The Stranger, October, 1999

Opus 7 — Seattle’s finest vocal ensemble in a program of songs whose texts are inspired by “the beauty and mystery of the night.” Read more…

6 December 1998 “A Celebration for the Feast of St. Nicolas”

Philippa Kiraly, Special to the Seattle P-I, December, 1998

Difficult Britten pieces flow together with help from many sources

More than any composer of this century, Benjamin Britten mixed his performing groups and made dramatic use of sacred space.

As he intended, his cantata “Saint Nicolas” was performed Sunday night by a professional choir and soloist, children’s choir, child soloists, church choir and professional musicians, all under the baton of Loren Pontén and using the spatial resources of St. James Cathedral. Read more…

28 March 1998 “Benedictio”

R. M. Campbell, Music Critic, Seattle P-I, March, 1998

Music Review

Opus 7’s Lenten concert a rich one

Opus 7, the suburb a cappella vocal ensemble in residence at St. James Cathedral, often ties its programs to significant events in the Christian calendar.

The program at St. James . . . ranged all over the Western universe, with Ave Marias, for instance, by Bruckner, Stravinsky, Verdi and Holst. Read more…

15 December 1996 “The Great ‘O’ Antiphons”

R.M. Campbell, Music Critic, Seattle P-I, December, 1996

Music Review

St. James’ Opus 7 rings crisp and clear with ‘Antiphons’

On Sunday night, Opus 7 widened its horizons and moved across eight centuries. The illuminating concert focused on various settings of the seven “Great ‘O’ Antiphons,” Gregorian chants meant to be sung during Advent. Read more…

April 17, 1996 “Early Music in Seattle and How it Grew”

Philippa Kiraly, Seattle Weekly, April, 1996

What Seattle’s early music community also has, and has always had, is a collaborative attitude in which everyone helps each other. Today, singers such as tenor David Stutz, soprano Lisa Cardwell Pontén, baritone Vernon Nicodemus, and many others can be heard in some or all of such choral groups as Loren Pontén’s Opus 7 …

March 29, 1996 “From Captivity to the Holy City”

Philippa Kiraly, Seattle P-I, April, 1996

Music Review

Titled ‘From Captivity to the Holy City,’ the program was devoted to words of those going, or returning, literally or figuratively, to Jerusalem and thus home to God’s abode. Some words came from the Psalms, some from such 17th-century poets as Paul Flemming and John Donne – words of praise, distress, faith, sorrow, prayer, anxiety, agony. Together, they were a powerful collection. Read more…

December 16, 1995 “Noel through the Ages”

Philippa Kiraly, Seattle Weekly, December, 1995

Seattle Weekly Music Pick

In a distinctly different Christmas concert, the 14 professional singers of Opus 7 under Loren Pontén perform a mostly 20th-century program of unaccompanied music by Hugo Distler, mystical composer John Tavener, and Northwest composer Robert Scandrett, among others. Read more…