This debut recording by choral composer and conductor Michael John Trotta presents an inspiring introduction to his music, which explores the many facets of spirituality in an idiom that is at once ancient and modern. The 17 tracks on the recording, which bears the subtitle “timeless wisdom for the present moment” are meditations on the place of the individual in the Universe, the meaning and manifestation of time, and the experience of being present in the moment and receptive to the beauties of life.

Trotta creates tonal, textured, richly colored tapestries of sound and emotion. His own considerable experience as a choral conductor makes his writing for the voice grateful, and the sound he elicits from the 30-plus singers is a lush, full, blended one that nonetheless shapes the harmonies with great clarity. Several impressive pieces are a cappella and others are scored for strings, flute, oboe, and piano. The choice of texts from John Donne, Christina Rosetti, and Rabindrinath Tagore, as well as two original poems by Trotta himself and his wife Rachel, are all chosen for their mystical nature and speak to the interconnectedness of human beings and all the natural world.

The disc begins with Break of Day , a beautifully layered setting of Donne’s poem about lovers parting. There follows three settings of Medieval texts, of which Veni makes use of the familiar melody for Veni, veni Emmanuel and weaves that quotation into a richly textured, percussive, rhythmical setting in which the pure, soaring voices serve as counterpoint to the instrumentation. Adam Lay Ybounden , to a 15th-century Middle English text, plays with the tension between major and minor tonalities which resolve themselves in a major mode for the last refrain.

Trotta’s take on In the Bleak Midwinter is at once comfortingly familiar and strikingly unique. The plaintive oboe carries the melody and the instrumentation is thicker and fuller than the accustomed folk setting. In What then? Trotta employs S. T. Coleridge’s poem to contemplate the ramifications of dreams, with the flute providing the soaring, uplifting line. Trotta’s setting of his own text Make Space to Live uses sparser instrumentation and focuses on the voices, which sing of becoming part of something greater than the self. The exquisite piano finish leaves a hushed sense of higher presence. Hidden in Plain Sight , a setting of Rachel Trotta’s lovely poem about the pulsating beauties seemingly invisible in the world around us, is scored for voice, piano, and flute, and given a jaunty dance-like opening that sets the joyous tone. There are three excerpts from the composer’s larger work, Mass for Treble Voices, of which the Kyrie with its piano-flute accompaniment to the unison melody is most stirring.

However, it is the a cappella compositions on the recording that are some of Trotta’s most moving because they showcase his intimate knowledge of the human voice and his sensitivity to the capabilities of a choral ensemble. Veni Creator Spiritus is a haunting combination of modern tonalities with chant. Prayer for Peace , set to St. Francis of Assisi’s well-known orison, revels in rich vocal textures, while the final Veni, veni Emmanuel returns as the finale; here it is a remix of the tune’s first appearance earlier on the recording, but now Trotta’s use of synthesizer and percussion marries ancient and modern in his signature manner.

The sound is ambient with the vocal component forwardly placed, and the entire disc pulsates with the resonance of a cathedral setting, adding to the mystical experience. The accompanying CD booklet is attractively designed and contains excellent notes and all the texts, though no timings for the individual tracks.

Michael John Trotta makes a memorable debut with this recording, which is coherently conceived, vibrantly sung and recorded, and which preserves for a wider audience some lovely pieces of modern choral composition. Carla Maria Verdino-Süllwold