2008.By Carol Swanson, Christmas Reviews.
Wow. This is a rare and wonderful treat. Cantus is a fabulous a cappella male ensemble; I reviewed their superb holiday albums in 2005: Comfort and Joy: Volume One and Comfort and Joy: Volume Two. This release, however, is something entirely different. You may well be familiar with the true story of how the Germans and the English stepped from their WWI trenches at Christmastime in 1914 to celebrate camaraderie, music, and peace before returning to the cruel realities of war. All Is Calm: The Christmas Truce of 1914 is the original cast recording of a radio musical drama base on this fascinating historical moment. A collaboration between Cantus and Theater Latte Da, the presentation combines music common to England and Germany, and textual narratives taken from many sources, including war documents, letters, journals, and even a grave stone inscription. The music naturally incorporates Christmas pieces, but also reflects trench songs, patriotic numbers, and sentimental tunes of the era.
This, then, is a dramatic presentation, and you can enjoy the full force of the radio broadcast through the All Is Calm CD. It is not your average holiday release, that’s for certain. From the perspectives of dramatic execution and musical performance, this is moving unique Christmas entertainment unlike anything else you might encounter. Cantus, of course, provides magnificent a cappella choral support, and the actors deliver memorable readings that will transport you to the WWI trenches, making you witness to the remarkable piece that broke out among enemies. The overall package is a rarity in holiday offerings—and one that delivers a powerful message wrapped in a history lesson.
Of course, given the unusual nature of All Is Calm, the CD has limited replay value, and you cannot really use it effectively as background music for your holiday events. On the other hand, you probably already have tons of “regular” Christmas CDs for such affairs; I can guarantee that you do NOT already have anything like All Is Calm in your holiday collection!
Finally, the three “Bonus Tracks” are stupendous additions to the recording. The six-minute version of Silent Night is among the most moving that I have ever heard, and Auld Lang Syne, a throwaway number on most albums, is fully developed and breathtaking here. Get out your hankies!
Simply amazing. Looking for something special to surprise and entertain your family this holiday season? Look no further. The collaboration between Cantus and Theater Latte Da has created the perfect holiday gift: All Is Calm: The Christmas Truce of 1914. Enough said!