Rating ***** 5/5 Stars
Any distilled sample library which is reduced to its barest elements might immediately appear to lack content. This is most certainly not the case with Choir Essentials, the new library from Strezhov Sampling, the sample library arm of a highly successful film and media recording facility in Sofia, Bulgaria.
From the opening choral salvo, the quality of the recording and presentation is incredibly strong. Each choral element is presented in two formats, the first being the Performance patch, which offers five syllables, each with their own level of performance‑laden attack. They range from ‘Roh’ through to ‘Sheh’ and cycle to form a series of mock‑syllable soundbites resulting in a form of fake Latin! At full volume, these semi‑plosives are highly effective and percussive, providing exceptionally useful content for anyone working in soundtrack music. While there is no round robin at the individual sample level, the continual cycle of syllables eliminates any obvious repetition, while the five phrase elements may be enabled or disabled to suit the user’s desired cycle‑construct.
The Performance patching includes male and female choruses, in both individual and layered configurations. The Divided mode helpfully maps each chorus across the upper and lower part of the keyboard respectively, which can be exceptionally useful for arranging choral parts on the fly. Both choruses are beautifully recorded, with an exceptional depth and presence, captured via three miking positions, namely Close, Decca Tree and Hall. If the soundstage reverberation isn’t substantial enough for your production, the included back‑end digital reverb is excellent, without any sense of resonant exaggeration.
Performance control is provided at two levels, with both true dynamic and MIDI expression control, with an option to blend velocity amounts into the dynamic mix. Even at full dynamic volume, the tonal colours feel very natural and unforced.
Apart from the male and female choruses, further colour may be obtained from the Children’s choir; while the adult choirs do not exhibit any sense of excessive vibrato, the purity of tone from the children’s choir is really endearing and very noticeable.
The second patch‑level instrument is exclusively for Legato. This is where you gain access to the individual Soprano, Alto, Tenor and Bass samples, as well as the Children’s choir, represented as both Sopranos (trebles) or Altos. The control of the elements in this section is substantial, with potential for single legato lines or the exceptionally realistic polyphonic legato, if playing chordal constructs. Each choral section is represented by an ‘Ahh’, with legato phrases resulting in incredibly musical and stunningly realistic phrasing.
While there is an arguable absence of further tonal content, particularly in the legato section, it is brimming with convincing and usable sounds that perform quickly and brilliantly. There is no word‑building capacity, but for quick and effortless choral mock‑ups, or even more complete works, Choir Essentials boasts a healthy 11.5GB of sample content at a very attractive price. This suite might be ‘Essential’, but it is certainly far from basic!