Sunday, February 28, 2010

Friday collegiate concerts at the ACDA conference in Cincinnati

The Friday afternoon concerts featured two collegiate ensembles, the Millikin University Chamber Chorale led by Guy Forbes, and the Miami (of Ohio) University Collegiate Chorale, led by Ethan Sperry.

The Millikin Ensemble was impressively musical-- exquisite phrasing and no oversinging- avoiding the issues that a few other college ensembles seemed to be having problems with. Their opening number, Charles Wood's "Hail Gladdening Light" was full of color shifts and gorgeous rubato, and when the choir reached an obvious high point, Guy Forbes led them in expanding the sound, not just trying to rev up rpms on a Hummer. An "Ave Maria" by Pawel Lukaszewski was gorgeous as was Forbes' own "Come back to me, Me Love". I have just visited Forbes website ( and apparently he has only been writing since 2005. I have already heard a couple other pieces by him, most notably a very fine Ave Maria. Guy obviously has some real talent as a composer and I wish him all the best as he keeps writing more and more.

Two nicely uptempo pieces were sung with energy, and once again, without trying to muscle the music-- Michael McGlynn's "Dulaman" and the Hogan "Didn't My Lord Deliver Daniel". The entire ensemble exhibited the usual Millikin confidence and comfortable stage presence. All in all, this was one of the finest concerts at the conference, especially if you took the care to listen to nuance, sophistication, and detail.

A very different program was presented by Miami University. While this choir does sing all repertoire, they are best known for their amazing performances of world music. I also found out in talking to Ethan later that this is an almost completely non-music major group- these are young people who love singing for Ethan and share his infectious enthusiasm for authentically prepared world music.

The program was divided into two parts- Haitian music and music from India. The Haitian music was great- uptempo music full of amazing rhythms (btw, these world music programs have drumming throughout most of the program) and some quieter music of great soulfulness. Present for this portion of the program and leading with flair was a guest, Sten Kallman, a Swedish fellow who has been to Haiti many times and has studied the music. Sten led the group mostly by his enthusiasm and moving about the stage- Ethan introduced him as a non-conductor in the usual sense. None of this mattered to the audience who ate up the joy onstage. The last section of music from India, including some sassy Bollywood stuff, was such great fun. The whole performance was a blast and done so effectively. I have always been leery of American choirs trying to do world music- I cringe a bit when I think how badly and lazily they may be doing it, or how caricaturized many of the arrangements are. Here was a shining example of how to do it right.

Later that evening I just happened into Mike Scheibe (current ACDA president) and Ethan. Mike and I listened as Ethan told us all about his program, the kids and their enthusiasm, his love of world music, and so on. It was fun to listen to Ethan talk as he is so excited about world music and the global paths it has taken him on, including many trips to India.

No comments:

Post a Comment