Denver’s Kantorei Sings Music For Our Time In New Jake Runestad Recording

Kantorei’s new recording of Jake Runestad’s music is right on point with what we’re living now: the pandemic, the virus, racial and social justice, diversity. Naxos Records releases “Sing, Wearing the Sky” by the Denver choir on Thursday.

What’s just short of miraculous is that the performances were recorded before anyone had even heard of COVID-19, or George Floyd. Same for the composition of these pieces. It’s yet another demonstration of how music speaks to our every condition, and--as we’ve re-recognized many times since March--how essential music is to the soul.

David Ginder speaks with composer Jake Runestad and Kantorei Artistic Director, Joel Rinsema about their newest recording, “Sing, Wearing the Sky”

Kantorei’s commitment to new choral music is evident. Last season, rising star Norwegian composer Ola Gjeilo accompanied Kantorei in the world premiere of a new work he composed for the choir, “The Road”. Another emerging Norwegian composer, Kim André Arnesen, was Kantorei’s composer-in-residence a few seasons back. “Infinity”, their 2018 recording of Arnesen’s music is the result. This Sunday morning CPR Classical’s “Sing!” features Kantorei’s latest recording by American composer, Jake Runestad, “Sing, Wearing the Sky.”

The title piece uses words by Lalla, the 14th century Kashmiri mystic. The text encourages us to think and exist within the big picture, “The soul, like the moon, is new, and always new again.” “Dance, Lalla, with nothing on but air. Sing, Lalla, wearing the sky.”

For another piece, Runestad drew from words of encouragement that the great early 20th century poet Rainer Maria Rilke penned in a letter to fellow writer Franz Kappus, telling him to not worry about finding all the answers. Rather, “live the questions.” It’s advice for us today, and Runestad’s setting reminds us that the trail of figuring things out is a good one to explore. Just as you think the music is coming to resolution, it moves on to another question, and another resolution. And another.

There’s an “Alleluia” showing that joy can assume many forms: a shout, a dance, a pleasant smile. Words by Walt Whitman are about the sea, and, in another piece, about the rich variety of sounds around us: rivers, tree-tops humming, lullabies, and hymns.

Kantorei recorded “Sing, Wearing the Sky” at St. John's Episcopal Cathedral in Denver

Singing is a thing we humans do, and, sometimes -- let’s be honest -- we take it for granted.  But composer Jake Runestad and Kantorei Artistic Director Joel Risema remind us that it’s a cleansing, bringing-together experience like no other. 

Sing! airs every Sunday morning from 6-10 a.m. with David Ginder on CPR Classical.

You can listen to CPR Classical by clicking "Listen Live" on this website. You can also hear CPR Classical at 88.1 FM in Denver, at radio signals around Colorado, or ask your smart speaker to “Play CPR Classical.”