Friday, March 5, 2010

Quick reviews- University Choirs at Tucson ACDA

Again...pressed for time because there are so many concerts, so many great interest sessions, and so many people to meet and connect with...

Mini-reviews of some university choirs at ACDA Tucson Thursday and Friday:

Forgive me if I am mistaken about the status of these colleges, but I heard, I believe, two two-year college choirs (not four year degree institutions) here that were amazing in their accomplishments.

The first was Mt. San Antonio College directed by Bruce Rogers, and the second was Riverside City College directed by John Byun.

Mt. San Antonio began with a Sweelick with very sweet color shifts in tone from section to section. The balance of their program was delightfully varied, and the sound was far beyond what you would expect from a junior college choir. A big audience pleaser was "Beim Kronenwirt" arranged by Leonard Enns, sung with champagne glasses in hand with Feledermaus-ish (yeah, I just invented that word) delight and even some tooting away on pitched wine bottles. Overall, the group was very successful in their efforts yet at times seemed to be oversinging;however, I am still on record as being a big fan of this choir.

The Riverside City College Chamber Singers were directed wonderfully by John Byun, and I believe they are also a two year institution. Again, some wonderful singing, but a tendency to push the sound too much crept in at times. They sang a quite beautiful Ave Maria by Kevin Memly to great effect and the program was filled with unusual repertoire sung with commitment and passion. Bravo to these young singers and a young conductor who seems to be very popular with his singers and many in the audience.They also sang the Brock commission piece by Joan Szymko, "All Works of Love" in an intimately beautiful manner. I am going to blog about Joan's piece separately. Let me just say for now that this Brock commission is very special and it touched the hearts of those in the audience, especially sung so sensitively by Byun's choir.

And finally, a four year institution, the University of Arizona Symphonic Choir, made up of undergrad music majors and non-music majors directed by Elizabeth Schauer. Schauer's programming was thematic and very sophisticated, while a bit conservative in its repertoire (not that there is anything wrong with that). I have to love any choir who gorgeously sings Monteverdi and Vaughn Williams. Schauer's conducting is graceful and extremely effective- one of the most elegant choral conductors I have ever seen. Her gestural style is open, inviting and truly communicative. No wonder that she is on the Westminster Choir College summer faculty in addition to her appointment at U of Arizona.

In addition, this choir (as well as the U of Cincy Conservatory choirs I heard last week) easily had the widest dynamic range I have heard in the last two weeks attending ACDA Cincinnati and Tucson. It was a delight to hear pianissimos, mezzo-pianos and so on as well the big triple fortes. And of course, we all need to remember that the triple fortes are going to be more awe-inspiring if they develop organically from a quieter beginning!

PLUS many great interest sessions including Dave Devenney's Eurythmics session- people were stepping to the music and really understanding what a great tool this can be

MINUS Reading session tunes with repeated half-step up auto-modulations. I thought Alice Parker passed a law against this annoyingly tired cliche years ago. Did some composers not get her memo?

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