Chicago Chamber Choir wraps season with eclectic and enjoyable program

Sun Apr 14, 2013 at 12:25 pm

By Gerald Fisher

The Chicago Chamber Choir performed its final season program Saturday night in Evanston.

A broadly diverse program held together by thematic unity marked the Chicago Chamber Choir’s final concert of the season at St Mark’s Episcopal Church in Evanston Saturday evening. The title of the program, “Burst Out Singing!” was the art of singing itself in all its variety of inspiration and execution.

From the brash opening, which featured the 40-strong group pouring into the space while doing vocal warm-up exercises, to the 70‘s-flavored encore ,which began life as a Coke commercial, artistic director Timm Adams culled a wide range of works for a musical journey through song from many viewpoints.

Leonard Bernstein’s Warm-Up (written as a prelude for his 1969 Mass) was the perfect choice to open this eclectic program. His trademark syncopation and energy was to the fore and the choir clapped and clucked their way through the short but flavorful fragment.

Fellow American Randall Thompson’s “Ye Shall Have a Song” from his cantata The Peaceable Kingdom is complex and elevated choral writing and was performed by the group with clean articulation and commitment.

The program was divided into spiritual and physical halves and was sung with clarity and musicality throughout. Also notable was the well-balanced and discreet accompaniment on both organ and piano by Kevin Anderson.

The music of the first half (spiritual approaches to singing) veered from the traditional (Pleasure Enough by K. Lee Scott) to the fairly edgy (Singing Place by Joan Szymko).  A highlight was the performance of Daniel Gawthrop’s anthemic Sing Me to Heaven a composition that’s fast becoming a cultural phenomenon. The choir sang it sensitively while avoiding overt sentimentality.

The section ended with a gospel-inflected spiritual I’m Gonna Sing til the Spirit Moves in My Heart created by Moses Hogan. This was a standout performance of a difficult but rewarding piece by the late arranger/composer.

The second, more sensual half contained a poised performance of Gerald Finzi’s My Spirit Sang All Day and quickly moved into pop territory with nods toward Manhattan Transfer, Abba, Eva Cassidy and others.

Songbird by Christine McVee of Fleetwood Mac was effectively accompanied by a small group of instruments including 2 guitars, bass and piano; A Nightingale Sang in Berkeley Square was given to a vocal quartet while Vincent Youmans’ show tune Without a Song employed full choral resources.

My Sun and Song and Spring was written for these concerts by choir member Edward F. Davis. This interesting piece is vocally wide-ranging and employs effects like humming and whispering as a part of the sonic fabric.

The most representative itemof the evening was the encore I’d Like to Teach the World to Sing in Perfect Harmony. Not only was it sung in perfect harmony, it caught the good cheer of earlier pieces, and its origin as a TV commercial for Coke is testimony to the wide-ranging musical sources this first-class ensemble combs for its eclectic programs.

Posted in Performances

One Response to “Chicago Chamber Choir wraps season with eclectic and enjoyable program”

  1. Posted Apr 15, 2013 at 10:54 pm by Virginia

    Thank you for your review of this terrific choir. As you said, this is a first-class ensemble with eclectic programs.

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