Cascadian Singers' Premiere (Cascadian Chorale) is a ravishing, highbrow collection of choral works from the highly refined minds of Northwest composers David White, Bern Herbolsheimer, and Troy Peters. If you're a novice to classical music, the disc may seem intimidating. I'm not gonna lie: The esoteric subtleties that pervade the five austere, solemn pieces on Premiere will probably elude those not familiar with the fundamentals of serious composition.

Nevertheless, Premiere rewards diligent listening, no matter the depth of your knowledge of neoclassical music. Recorded with crystalline clarity, the singing by these Cascadian Singers—especially by soprano Christina Siemens—is phenomenal. Similarly, the choice of literary sources is inspired: four poems each by Walt Whitman and E. E. Cummings; pieces by French poets Charles Baudelaire, Jean Lahor, and de Lisle; verse by Orlando Gibbons; and Jesus Christ's last words.

Support The Stranger

The CD opens with White's Silver Swan, which achieves melancholy ascension through Rachel Snow's sonorously circuitous violin and the angelically haunting choir. On Seven Last Words, Herbolsheimer sets Christ's final utterances to a sparse, solemn unaccompanied arrangement, whose melodies are tinged by both resignation and glimmers of redemption. The choir remarkably exhibits both gravity and ethereality to convey this most poignant scenario. Things lighten up a bit and attain a sort of controlled, lyrical exuberance with Peters's For Comrades and Lovers, Herbolsheimer's Mirrors of Love, and White's Four Choral Songs of E. E. Cummings. Overall, Premiere is an edifying, brow-heightening listening experience.

segal@thestranger.com