Saturday, February 9, 2013

In Review--Maiden Rising

Perunika Trio
A Bright Star Has Risen
Arc Music

In the late 1980s, Bulgarian choir music reached international audiences when Le Mystère des Voix Bulgares and Trio Bulgarka enjoyed popularity among world music fans.  Trio Bulgarka appeared on Kate Bush’s Sensual World which introduced Bulgarian vocal music to pop and rock audiences.  Further more, Philip Koutev, an arranger and composer also enjoyed popularity while western ears were introduced to open-throat singing and folkloric music of Eastern Europe.  Closer to home, San Francisco-based Kitka also includes Bulgarian folk songs in its repertoire that also includes Balkan, Russian, Ukrainian, and Hungarian songs.

Bright, young and beautiful, the women vocalists who comprise Perunika Trio sing polyphony complete with the exclamatory whoop.  Lead by Eugenia Georgieva, the women hail from Bulgaria and Serbia originally and now make their home in the UK where they have won the hearts of world music audiences.  The songs on A Bright Star Has Risen speak of maidens, mothers, new love and the pain of separation (on the song Farewell Mother).  The songs are both pagan and Christian with plenty of metaphors and symbolism, and references to nature.

But it's the ethereal vocals that captivate the senses.  Listen to the haunting vocals on Farewell Mother that contrasts with the mirthful vocals on Village Dance.  The drop dead gorgeous Harvest opens with a solo voice then the other vocalists fill in the contours.  I can see why the wheat flourishes in the fields.  The titular track, also moves at a dreamy pace while the a cappella vocals play leapfrog.  The religious hymn Adoration of the Virgin features Greek Orthodox scales and modes. This comes as no surprise when you read about the origins of Bulgarian choral music in the liner notes.
Overall, I’m reminded of my favorite women a cappella singers such as Faraualla from Italy, Kitka, and Värttinä of Finland (when this band performs a cappella). I can’t think of a better album than A Bright Star Has Risen to usher in late winter/early spring.  I can already see the crocuses pushing through the hard winter soil.

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