"When Daniel Taylor's Trinity Choir released its 2015 Christmas album Four Thousand Winter, it impressed even the committed scrooges here at CBC Music. And now, a year later, the choir has returned with a record in a very similar mould. Like its predecessor, The Tree of Lifefeatures music spanning two millenia: from chants dating back to the earliest days of Christmas celebrations, to contemporary works by Arvo Pärt and John Tavener. But this new album has a concept and a goal of its own.
The album is structured around Pärt's Seven Magnificat-Antiphons, a collection of gloriously straightforward settings of sixth-century sacred texts. Around the scaffolding of these seven short pieces, Taylor and his choir build a meditative musical experience that's a far cry from the standards-and-sleigh-bells approach to Christmas music. Tavener's setting of William Blake's "The Lamb" is so static, you might find yourself slipping into a trance by the end of its brief running time. Robert Parsons's placid "Ave Maria" will immediately purge your mind of more familiar settings by Schubert and Gounod. And Benjamin Britten's "Hymn to the Virgin" (written when Britten was only 16) cuts straight to the part of you that recognises beauty — regardless of what sort of spiritual journey you may personally be on." - CBC