Although it was an evening of generally pleasant music, I can’t say that we enjoyed it all that much, a fact that I attribute to the Director, Lani M. Knutson. As a rule,the arrangements chosen were neither inspiring nor challenging . Tempos were homogenous and uniform, and dynamic changes almost non-existent.
Problems were immediately noticeable with the opening number, “How Can I Keep From Singing?” I am used to hearing this song done joyously, but the arrangement made it sound more like grim duty. The following pieces, “Hallelujah, Amen,” from Judas Maccabeus, by George Frideric Handel; “Ave Verum Corpus,” by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart; and “How Lovely is Thy Dwelling Place,” by Johannes Brahms, all suffered from metronomic tempos and monotonous volumes. That the chorus was being held down became apparent on the final crescendo of Jean Sibelius’ “Onward, Ye Peoples!,” which was the first time that the voices really filled the hall.
“Sometimes I Feel Like a Motherless Child,” was presented in an unsatisfying homogenized arrangement without a trace of “the Blues.” Although we were glad to hear all the words to “When the Saints Go Marching In,” I conjecture that the lack of the jazz bounce for which the piece is famous contributed to the audience’s tepid response when asked to sing along.
The first half of the concert was nominally “sacred” music; the second half was more eclectic, but with an emphasis on show music. “It’s A Grand Night for Singing,” opened the half, but still without the swing and sway one is accustomed to hearing. “Yesterday,” was essentially a solo with some choral accompaniment. Regrettably, the soloist was not having a good night, starting flat, then recovering, but not making the high notes later in this deceptively difficult piece.
Having been in a production of “Oliver!” myself, I was well able to judge that the songs in a medley from the show were mostly up to tempo.Some energy almost showed itself on “Oom Pa Pah,” and the soloist on “Who Will Buy?” demonstrated that there was genuine vocal power available in the group. However, you wouldn’t have known that from the frustrating presentation of “Bridge Over Troubled Water,” which requires an intensity, and a swelling and receding in the volume levels that just was not there. I had to restrain myself from standing up and shouting, “Sing out, for God’s sake!”
The medley that followed, “Irving Berlin’s America,” had some good points, but, again, I was annoyed by the total lack of emphasis on songs such as “No Business Like Show Business,” which needs to be a punchy song, to wit: “There’s NO business like SHOW business, like NO business I KNOW!” It would perhaps have been well to have ended with the Berlin medley, but the concert wrapped up with “Lullaby (Good Night My Angel)”by Billy Joel, which was unmemorable.
What was disappointing was that we know people in this group, and they are capable of being SO MUCH better. What could have been an exciting and interesting evening of music ended up being just –nice—and insipid.
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