WHEN one thinks of choral music, what often spring to mind are
the great classical vocal works of Western civilization - Bach,
Mozart, Handel, and so on. Yet since the broader recognition during
the past few years of groups like the Bulgarian Women's Choir (Le
Mystere des Voix Bulgares) and South Africa's Ladysmith Black
Mambazo, choral music has taken on new dimensions.
Now there's a new choral collection called "Voices" that will
change anyone's limited understanding of choral music forever.
The beautifully packaged set - three CDs in a cloth album-sized
box with a beautifully illustrated, informative booklet, put out by
Mesa/Bluemoon Recordings - presents 33 choruses (more than 1,000
singers) from Japan, Tibet, Germany, Bulgaria, India, Venezuela,
Africa, England, Bali, Sweden, the United States, Israel, and the
It includes gospel choirs, Sufi choirs, Tibetan monks, harmonic
choirs whose singers produce more than one tone at a time,
traditional Western-style choruses, and even singing whales!
"Voices" was compiled by the prominent German jazz critic and
producer Joachim-Ernst Berendt, who founded the "World Music
Festival" in Berlin in 1966 and has produced more than 300 jazz
Mr. Berendt, whose book "The Jazz Book" has sold 1.5 million
copies, has written for practically every jazz magazine. He has
produced 20 other books including two about listening - "The Word is
Sound" and "The Third Ear."
Why would a jazz critic take such an interest in world choral
music? In a telephone conversation from Switzerland, Berendt says
"It was not so much an interest in choruses, but an interest in
spiritual music." And he adds, "Some people feel that it was a break
between my jazz work and my spiritual work, but it wasn't a break,
it was a gradual opening up.... I'm still very much in jazz. But I
have become much more open to other music, and especially spiritual
music in all the cultures of this planet."
Berendt became interested in the spiritual side of music while
working in jazz.
"It makes sense that one of the sources of jazz is called
`spiritual,' the Negro spiritual," he says.
"I always felt this spiritual part in jazz, but I think most
musicians did not - you know, when the tunes came from American
popular music and had to do with love and flirting and romance."
Berendt had a long-standing friendship with John Coltrane, the
late saxophonist and jazz innovator of the '60s. …