A number of us can relate to Caleb Burhans’ position of having agnostic spiritual beliefs yet having a fond attachment to church music. Evensong, the young composer’s first proper release, is an attempted reconciliation of these opposites. And it largely works. The music floats from chant-like choral arrangements accompanied by sparse organ to an unusually thorough blend of contemporary classical and jazz elements without calling attention to itself. The three ensembles presenting the music here, Alarm Will Sound, Trinity Wall Street Choir and Tarab Cello Ensemble, do an alarmingly good job of making the music blend across the board. Evensong starts off in a derivative manner with “Magnificat”, echoing the sacred choral music of so many composers before Burhans’ time. By the second half of the third track, you’re in another place entirely. “Iceman Stole the Sun” wraps up with many sighing strings pitted against one another, a calming compositional technique that sounds like it could, and should, go on forever. You could say this about the slow crawl that haunts “Oh Ye of Little Faith…(Do You Know Where Your Children Are?)”.
The powerful music is undermined by the cutesy packaging, though. Flip open the digipack and there’s a photo of Caleb Burhans with a goofy fauxhawk atop his head. The liner notes start out like this: “Caleb Burhans is not a Christian. He is also not a vegetarian, though he does eat vegetables.” Huh?