Easter Week Music: Kum Ba Ya/Kyrie Eleison, by Cynthia Clawson

This comes from a little-known, yet astonishing album by Cynthia Clawson called Prayer & Plainsong. It was recorded entirely acapella at a very old mission building in Texas with two male singers, a tenor and a bass. It features daring arrangements that blend liturgical music with traditional hymns, arranged in the order of the mass. While her male backup chants in the background, Cynthia sings a thematically and musically complementary hymn in counterpoint. It’s the sort of thing that should not work, yet somehow it does, over and over again. The purity of the vocals is striking, particularly since there was no electronic enhancement after the fact. I would highly recommend this project for anybody who appreciates classy sacred music. You can hear a two-part interview with Cynthia about the recording (which includes samples of the music) here and here.

This is probably the album’s most transcendent moment, an unlikely pairing of “Kum Ba Ya” with the “Kyrie.” Again, just to hear it you would think “That can’t possibly work.” But… well, you be the judge:


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