Cantor Erik Contzius: Teach My Lips A Blessing
2008 / self-produced, featuring the Amor Artis Chamber Choir
20 tracks; 56:49 minutes
Reviewed by Tobin Mueller
Teach My Lips A Blessing is a marvelous collection of spiritually affecting songs by Erik Contzius. Although these are mostly religious Hebrew texts, the music and performances are accessible to everyone. I recommend this CD to any fan of choral works.
Erik Contzius is known to Macjammers simply as “the Cantor.” I imagine he is known to many in New Rochelle as the same. That is where he currently serves as the Cantor (Temple Israel). When I asked Erik to provide some biographical material, he replied with characteristic wit and humility, “My synagogue underwrote the project, so all proceeds go to the Temple. I’m a nice Jewish boy.”
Much of Erik’s music on Macjams employs a similar self-deprecating sense of humor. Although the music on Teach My Lips A Blessing is far more serious, as well it should be, it surpasses anything Erik has shared with us to date, owing to its depth of spiritual power, its sweetly bold writing, and nearly perfect production.
Teach My Lips A Blessing was recorded with the Amor Artis Chamber Choir, conducted by Johannes Somary (who has also conducted London’s Royal Philharmonic, the Vienna Philharmonic, among other prestigious groups). There are a few a cappella pieces scattered among the collection, adding to the variety, but most pieces are accompanied by pipe organ, flawlessly played by Christopher Creaghan. The balance between soloists, ensemble and organ is excellent. Recorded at St. Ignatus of Antioch (NYC) and produced by Jon Altschiller (who normally works with people like Ben Folds, Dave Matthews, etc.), the sound achieved captures all the natural ambience of a church/temple setting without ever sacrificing immediacy. The warmth of spirit surrounds, envelopes, comes to the edge of saturation, searing certain emotions to the bone. It’s as if you are there. (more…)