An Estonian Choir Channels Emily Brontë's Windswept Blues : Deceptive Cadence On a new album, the Grammy-winning Estonian Philharmonic Chamber Choir sings new music by native son Tõnu Kõrvits and probes the windswept melancholy of the 19th-century English author's poetry.
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An Estonian Choir Channels Emily Brontë's Windswept Blues

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An Estonian Choir Channels Emily Brontë's Windswept Blues

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An Estonian Choir Channels Emily Brontë's Windswept Blues

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(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "MOORLAND ELEGIES: NO. 2. SILENT IS THE HOUSE")

ESTONIAN PHILHARMONIC CHAMBER CHOIR: (Singing) Silent is the house.

ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:

This choir is from Estonia, a country that takes singing seriously. The Estonian Philharmonic Chamber Choir, winner of two Grammy Awards, is considered one of today's best vocal ensembles. And when the group releases a new album, fans of choral music listen up. And so does our reviewer, NPR's Tom Huizenga.

TOM HUIZENGA, BYLINE: The Estonian Philharmonic Chamber Choir is just two dozen voices. But those voices can produce a complex blend of sounds that is luminous and supple.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "MOORLAND ELEGIES: NO. 9. MONTH AFTER MONTH")

ESTONIAN PHILHARMONIC CHAMBER CHOIR: (Singing) My soul is day.

HUIZENGA: The choir can sing Gregorian chant, Mozart or Stravinsky just fine. But throughout its three-decade history, the group has earned its stripes singing new music. And for this new album, the music is homegrown. The composer is Tonu Korvits, one of Estonia's rising stars. He can pare the choir down to just wisps of smoke or paint with bold, swirling strokes.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "MOORLAND ELEGIES: NO. 8. THE STARRY NIGHT SHALL TIDINGS BRING")

ESTONIAN PHILHARMONIC CHAMBER CHOIR: (Singing) Watch out, starry night, breezy moor, starry night.

HUIZENGA: Raising voices in song is central to Estonians. In the summer of '88, over 100,000 gathered for five nights to sing patriotic and protest songs aimed at the Soviet Union. Those long nights of song were a key part of a movement that won Estonian independence three years later. The only protest songs on this new album, however, are aimed at love's misfortunes.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "MOORLAND ELEGIES: NO. 8. THE STARRY NIGHT SHALL TIDINGS BRING")

ESTONIAN PHILHARMONIC CHAMBER CHOIR: (Singing) Watch for a bird with sable wing, watch for a bird...

HUIZENGA: The words are poems by English author Emily Bronte, who wrote "Wuthering Heights." And like her novel, these poems are haunted by shadowy, windswept moors and coiled emotions. The music follows suit.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "MOORLAND ELEGIES: NO. 4. FALL, LEAVES, FALL")

ESTONIAN PHILHARMONIC CHAMBER CHOIR: (Singing) Fall, leaves, fall; die, flowers, away. Lengthen night and...

HUIZENGA: Bronte's words, of course, propel the stories in these songs, stories of love gone cold and restless, moonlit nights. But the strings, closely mic'd, seem to form a character of their own.

(SOUNDBITE OF TONU KORVITS SONG, "MOORLAND ELEGIES: NO. 4. FALL, LEAVES, FALL")

HUIZENGA: They can toll like bells or float with a gauzy impressionism. And when the strings swim together with the choir, it's tough to tell the two apart.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "MOORLAND ELEGIES: NO. 7. THE SUN HAS SET")

ESTONIAN PHILHARMONIC CHAMBER CHOIR: (Vocalizing).

HUIZENGA: Whether it's thousands of voices or just two dozen, when they rise together in song, something powerful can happen. Like on this album, where the fertile imaginations of a young Estonian composer and a long-gone English author intersect to produce a few moments of pure magic.

SIEGEL: The new album by the Estonian Philharmonic Chamber Choir is "Moorland Elegies." Our reviewer is NPR's Tom Huizenga.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "MOORLAND ELEGIES: NO. 9. MONTH AFTER MONTH")

ESTONIAN PHILHARMONIC CHAMBER CHOIR: (Singing) My soul is day. My soul is day, is day. My soul is, my soul is day.

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