Calling All Dawns
Calling All Dawns
Tin Works Publishing
October 1, 2009
After years of classical training, Christopher Tin came to prominence after composing “Baba Yetu” from Civilization IV. In his first solo album, Calling All Dawns, he treats listeners to 12 themes, each in a different language using vocalists and instrumentalists from around the world. He takes listeners on a trip through countries, cultures, and religions in the comfort of their living rooms or wherever they choose to listen to music. Is the virtual trip worthwhile?
The album opens up with arguably Christopher Tin’s opus, “Babu Yetu”. I’ll be the first one to admit that when I first heard this theme, I absolutely hated it, but one day, it came on random and it was like the second coming of awesome. I can’t really explain why I disliked it so adamantly at first, but in retrospect, now I wonder how that’s even possible. It’s an exquisite piece of music featuring a superb performance by the Soweto Gospel Choir. For those who don’t know, the lyrics to “Baba Yetu” are a Swahili translation of The Lord’s Prayer, but in my opinion, it’s so much better than the original! Perhaps it’s the exotic percussion, the beautiful orchestration, or the fantastic choir singing in a different language. Either way, it starts off the album with a bang.
Next up on our journey, we travel to Japan. “Mado Kara Mieru,” featuring vocalists Lia, Aoi Tada, and Kaori Omura, carries with it an air of mystery and awe. The soft vocals, combined with dramatic flourishes, helps give it a very special identity. I also love the inclusion of traditional Japanese instruments and how, despite carrying a Japanese flavor, it also manages to throw in a bit of a Celtic flair as well. The percussion and brass are the true stars of this performance though. It’s quite a breathtaking performance, especially when the choir comes in during the latter half of the theme.
“Dao Zai Yan Fe,” sung by Jia Ruhan, is a magical theme that transports us to China. The lack of focus on the lyrics, opting for more “operatic” style vocals, is a beautiful touch and helps contrast with the more vocal themes on the album. The strings work is exquisite and as the theme progresses, the addition of some background orchestration truly makes the theme shine and helps enrichen the theme. Subsequently “Se É Pra Vir Que Venha,” sung by Dulce Pontes, takes us to Portugal and is another beautiful theme on the album. The percussion, the woodwinds, and especially the strings make for an exquisite theme. In fact, parts of “Baba Yetu” are quite clear in the strings section, at least to me. It’s a pleasant contrast from the dramatic build up in the music is the soft piano that helps bring a touch of delicacy to the theme.
“Rassemblons-Nous,” sung in French, has a particularly romantic feel to it. I think the strings and brass help continue the earthly trend heard so far in the music and the electronic beat brings something new to the table. It’s quite a beautiful theme and I love the male vocalist and the addition of the female vocalist before the song builds up a bit more. “Lux Aeterna”, sung in Latin, is a very soft and subtle theme in comparison. The simplicity of the harp combined with the beautiful vocals and the elegant orchestration gives a very calming feel. Given the vocals are only used sparingly, it almost resembles an instrumental interlude on the album.
The next stop on our journey is Ireland with “Caoineadh”. Sung by Anonymous 4, it features a very somber atmosphere. The haunting vocal work and the soft instrumentation really help bring a strong sense of character to this theme. I was hoping the Irish music would have been more Celtic-based, but it’s still a very strong song overall. “Hymn Do Trojcy Swietej,” sung in Polish, is also a beautiful operatic work. It continues with the darker atmosphere first heard in “Caoineadh,” but the melody is quite strong and the operatic vocals really add a lot to the theme. “Hayom Kadosh,” sung in Hebrew, although short, does a lot in its short timespan. The ethnic percussion and orchestration really adds a lot of depth to the theme and the vocals are quite magical as well.
That brings us to “Hamsafar,” a song sung in Farsi. This theme picks up the pace a bit from the previous themes. The vocal work is the most impressive, particularly with the layering, but the inclusion of some more prominent “Baba Yetu” references, lush orchestration, and tribal percussion really helps make this theme one of the more beautiful ones on the album. “Sukla-Krsne,” however, is absolutely astounding. The vocal layering, sung in Sanskrit, really helps define this piece. It really gives it that Indian flair. The orchestration, especially when it picks up around 0:32, is lush and inviting and really accentuates the vocal work. Overall, this is one of the standout themes on the album.
That brings us to the Maori song, “Kia Hora Te Marino”. In many ways, this is a clear parallel to “Baba Yetu,” not only in the fact that if you have the album loop — it loops into “Baba Yetu” completing the song cycle — but mainly due to the structure of the song. The percussion helps give it that ethnic flair and the tribal chanting in the background gives it some oomph. The interlude is particularly beautiful, with the spoken word. However, the lush orchestration really pushes this one over the edge. It really heightens the experience for the listener. In fact, I’d buy this album for this song alone!
In the end, Calling All Dawns is a very impressive work. The overall scope and direction of the album is spectacular, lending itself towards many beautifully orchestrated and composed themes. “Baba Yetu,” “Sukla-Krsne,” and “Kia Hora Te Marino” are my clear favorites on the album, particularly because of how well they reflect the musical culture of the language in which it is being sung, something not seen for all the themes. I think it would have been nice to try to throw in some more of those influences in all the songs (and perhaps he did and I’m just not catching them), but that’s just a minor squabbling point. This album is extremely impressive and should be on anyone’s list of music to buy, should they enjoy “Baba Yetu” or orchestral vocal work in general.
Do you agree with the review and score? Let us know in the comments below!
Posted on August 1, 2012 by Don Kotowski. Last modified on August 1, 2012.