CD Review: Mystical Voices, The Choral Music of Michael John Trotta
Review by John Campbell, Artsong Update

Dr. Michael John Trotta (b.1978) is currently director of choral activities and assistant professor at Virginia Wesleyan College, holding the position since 2012. Two big events in Dr. Trotta’s musical life in 2014 were, first a set of his songs being sung in Carnegie Hall where he conducted the Voices of Virginia Wesleyan College on May 26. The second was the release of his CD in December.

The first two songs on the CD offer a poem by John Donne, Break of Day and In This Present Little Moment by Fra Giovanni Giocondo. There is a rich, enfolding longing in these gentle settings. The plaintive oboe ever so sweetly winds lush harmonies around the vocals.

A traditional ninth-century text Vene, Veni, Emmanuel breaks into the somnolence of the opening songs with percussive, propulsive, short vocal phrases with the familiar tune of Come, O Come Emmanuel that is associated with the Christmas season.

His texts are carefully chosen, some from traditional liturgy, others from familiar English language poetry and one by the composer and another by his wife. New settings with steady pacing display careful craftsmanship and a penchant for sweet, gentle mood painting, with a goal of engendering reflection and transcendence, or to quote the liner notes: “an opportunity to slow down time long enough to allow the beauty of life to catch up to you.” Many selections are with well-played strings.

The ninth song, Hidden in Plain Sight with text by Rachel Trotta with Patti Watters flute and George Stone, piano is a peppy setting for women’s voices, followed by Kyrie for treble voices also with flute and piano. Soprano Sarah Brown is featured soloist, sometimes with choir, in texts by Rainer Maria Rilke and Rabindranath Tagore.

The CD booklet is a fine experience—beautiful color, notes and text for each of the 17 songs. The list of performers includes 32 singers (with some of the area’s finest voices) and instrumentalists. No percussionist is listed.

Put on this CD and relax into a lovely ethereal space. The final selection, Veni, Veni, Emmanuel remix, with its bips, bops and sparkling sound will certainly wake you up, signaling that your blissed-out state is over.

Digital copies can be purchased at http://www.mysticalvoicescd.com. Hard copies of the CD and sheet music can be purchased at: http://hamptonroadsmusicgroup.com.