The Crossing: Carols after a Plague


Philadelphia based contemporary music choir The Crossing releases Carols after a Plague, a collection of works by twelve composers that responds to our collective experience of the last few years navigating the pandemic, as well as grappling with the fraught issues of our time. In characteristic fashion, The Crossing, led by conductor Donald Nally, finds ways to create projects that connect music to our shared experience, with the beauty of human voices providing the glue for this timeless communal experience.


# Audio Title/Composer(s) Time
Total Time 83:49
01Prelude: Adam
Prelude: Adam
02Carols after a Plague: I. Urgency
Carols after a Plague: I. Urgency
03Interlude 1: Wonder
Interlude 1: Wonder
04Requiem for a Plague
Requiem for a Plague
05Interlude 2: Dancing
Interlude 2: Dancing
06Rising Stars
Rising Stars
07Interlude 3: Beauty
Interlude 3: Beauty
08The Undisappeared
The Undisappeared
09Interlude 4: Here
Interlude 4: Here
10a carol called love
a carol called love
11Interlude 5: Apparel
Interlude 5: Apparel
12Everything Passes, Everything is Connected
Everything Passes, Everything is Connected
13Interlude 6: Frightful
Interlude 6: Frightful
14Colouring-In Book
Colouring-In Book
15Interlude 7: Snowman
Interlude 7: Snowman
17Interlude 8: Silent
Interlude 8: Silent
18Carols after a Plague: II. Tone-policing
Carols after a Plague: II. Tone-policing
19Interlude 9: Peace
Interlude 9: Peace
20Shining Still
Shining Still
21Interlude 10: Fa/La
Interlude 10: Fa/La
22Alone Together
Alone Together
23Interlude 11: Eve
Interlude 11: Eve
25Interlude 12: Power
Interlude 12: Power
26Still So Much to Say
Still So Much to Say
27Interlude 13: Gloria
Interlude 13: Gloria
28Carols after a Plague: III. Resolve
Carols after a Plague: III. Resolve

Throughout its history, the Philadelphia based contemporary chamber choir The Crossing, led by conductor Donald Nally, has championed works that address social, political, and environmental issues. Consistent with the group’s mission, their latest release Carols After a Plague takes a broad view of our experience of the pandemic, inviting twelve composers to engage with the myriad ways in which the last few years have forced all of us to confront difficult realities while gaining strength from one another. The result is a moving tribute to the resilience of communities and a clarion call to renew our collective commitment to justice.

Interwoven throughout the twelve newly commissioned choral works are a prelude and twelve interludes composed by conductor Donald Nally that create a ritualistic scaffolding for the album. Soulful trumpet lamentations, haunting marimba rolls, brilliant splashes of vibraphone color, evocative mandolin melodies, and tolling bells establish an anchor for the contrasting soundscapes of the other repertoire, unifying the collection into one larger album-length work.

Shara Nova’s three movement title work provides a second layer of interwoven material, spread through the beginning, middle, and end of the album. Carols After a Plague enters into a space of healing surrounding the racial reckoning that was triggered by George Floyd’s murder. The lush voicings in “Urgency,” extrapolation of the famous Silent Night melody in “Tone-Policing,” and exuberant joy expressed in “Resolve” share a courageous tone, approaching a painful subject matter with an open heart.

Tyshawn Sorey’s Requiem for Plague is dense and haunting, featuring murky harmonies that support disembodied high notes in the soprano. Sorey’s landscape is one of continued searching; with the many issues that have gained increased visibility over the last few years, Sorey powerfully asserts their continued urgency and unresolved essence with this wordless requiem. The album’s other wordless setting, Mary Jane Leach’s ominous Alone Together, also suggests more questions than answers.

Edith Canat de Chizy’s Rising Stars traces the process of renewal in Walt Whitman’s “Out of the cradle endlessly rocking,” using chromatic clusters, word painting, and insistent repetition to capture a sense of awakening.

Joseph C. Phillips Jr’s The Undisappeared hearkens to those early days of the pandemic when the community collectively came together to cheer essential workers from our windows, capturing those moments of collective gratitude with full, illuminated harmonies.

L.J. White’s a carol called love sets poet Alex Dimitrov’s additive Twitter poem in which he adds a new line starting with “I love…” every day. Individual members of the choir emerge from the murmuring of the other voices to intone deeply personal fragments uttered from the alienated corners of the internet. In Everything Passes, Everything is Connected, Samantha Fernando also explores isolation and connection, here through shimmering full choir harmonies and stark two voice textures.

Leila Adu-Gilmore’s Colouring-In Book is about overcoming intractable struggles, both personal and societal. Nina Shekhar reimagines famous Christmas tunes and lyrics in her fantastical y-mas, refracting them through the lens of a child raised in a different culture.

Vanessa Lann’s Shining Still sets inspirational texts by Victorian poet Matthew Arnold, weaving together a series of interlocking phrases to create intensity and a call for resilience. Alex Berko’s Exodus investigates the saturation of the word “plague” in the Old Testament, and the portrayal of God as a protector in a passage from Exodus. The charged repetition of the text echoes the uncertainty of a child discovering their relationship with faith.

Viet Cuong’s Still So Much to Say sets fragments from David Ferry’s “Resemblance,” about regret over what is left unsaid in the face of death. Indeed, as we come out of a transformative era, there is still so much to be said, about our experience of the last few years and about our renewed insight into the pertinent issues of our time. The Crossing’s beautiful curation and performances of the powerful works on this album are a testament to vocal music’s unique capacity to uplift us, representing an inspirational call to live fully and conscientiously.

– Dan Lippel

Carols after a Plague was recorded August 29 through September 2, 2021, and August 11, 2022, at St. Peter’s Church in the Great Valley, Malvern, Pennsylvania

Recording Producers: Paul Vazquez, Donald Nally, and Kevin Vondrak

Recording Engineer: Paul Vazquez

Assistant Recording Engineers: Dante Portella and Henry Koch

Editing, Mixing & Mastering: Paul Vazquez

Artwork: “The New Normal” (cover), “Astronaut Terrier,” and “Big Fish” by Sasan Pix (2021)

Design: Marc Wolf,

Photography: Donald Nally – Becky Oehlers Photography; The Crossing – John C. Hawthorne

The Crossing

The Crossing is a Grammy-winning professional chamber choir conducted by Donald Nally and dedicated to new music. It is committed to working with creative teams to make and record new, substantial works for choir that explore and expand ways of writing for choir, singing in choir, and listening to music for choir. Many of its nearly 150 commissioned premieres address social, environmental, and political issues.

The Crossing collaborates with some of the world’s most accomplished ensembles and artists, including the New York Philharmonic, Los Angeles Philharmonic, American Composers Orchestra, Lyric Fest, Piffaro, Beth Morrison Projects, Allora & Calzadilla, Bang on a Can, Klockriketeatern, and the International Contemporary Ensemble. Similarly, The Crossing often collaborates with some of the world’s most prestigious venues and presenters, such as the Park Avenue Armory, Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts at the University of Pennsylvania, National Sawdust, David Geffen Hall at Lincoln Center, Disney Hall in Los Angeles, the Cleveland Museum of Art, the Menil Collection in Houston, the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum in Boston, Haarlem Choral Biennale in The Netherlands, The Finnish National Opera in Helsinki, The Kennedy Center in Washington, Philadelphia Museum of Art, Metropolitan Museum of Art, Zankel Hall at Carnegie Hall, Symphony Space in New York, Winter Garden with WNYC, and Duke, Northwestern, Colgate, and Notre Dame Universities. The Crossing holds an annual residency at the Warren Miller Performing Arts Center in Big Sky, Montana.

With a commitment to recording its commissions, The Crossing has released 29 albums, receiving two Grammy Awards for Best Choral Performance (2018, 2019), and seven Grammy nominations. The Crossing, with Donald Nally, was the American Composers Forum’s 2017 Champion of New Music. They were the recipients of the 2015 Margaret Hillis Award for Choral Excellence, three ASCAP Awards for Adventurous Programming, and the Dale Warland Singers Commission Award from Chorus America.

Recently, The Crossing has expanded its choral presentation to film, working with Four/Ten Media, in-house sound designer Paul Vazquez of Digital Mission Audio Services, visual artists Brett Snodgrass, Eric Southern, and Steven Bradshaw, and composers David Lang, Paul Fowler, and Michael Gordon on live and animated versions of new and existing works. Lang’s protect yourself from infection and in nature were specifically designed to be performed within the restrictions imposed by the COVID-19 pandemic, during which The Crossing premiered a number of newly-commissioned works for outdoors by Matana Roberts, Wang Lu, and Ayanna Woods.

Donald Nally

Donald Nally collaborates with creative artists, leading orchestras, and art museums to make new works for choir that address social and environmental issues. He has commissioned over 180 works and, with The Crossing, has 28 recordings, with two Grammy Awards and seven nominations. Donald has served as chorus master at the Lyric Opera of Chicago, Welsh National Opera, Opera Philadelphia, and the Spoleto Festival in Italy. Recent projects have taken him to Stockholm, London, Osaka, Cleveland, Boston, Edmonton, Houston, Helsinki, Haarlem, Riga, Los Angeles, and New York. His 72-chapter pandemic-time series Rising w/ The Crossing, has been featured in The Los Angeles Times, the New York Times, The Washington Post, and NPR’s Performance Today; it is archived by The Library of Congress as a cultural artifact of our historical record. The 2022-2023 Season will include collaborations with Carnegie Hall, the New York Philharmonic, the Philadelphia Orchestra, the Ventura Festival, November Music in The Netherlands, the Baltic Sea Festival in Sweden, and TBA21 in Spain. Donald is the John W. Beattie Chair of Music and professor of choral studies at Northwestern University.

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