Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Concert #3: Highlights from the 2011 NCCO Conference

Here are highlights from the day two afternoon concert:

University of Northern Colorado Concert Choir, dir. by Galen Darrough

Choral music of Argentina: A Sampler

Cantate Domino, by Antonio Russi (ediciones GCC)

Gala del Dia, from Las Indianas, by Carlos Guastavino (Kjos)

Mi Lumia, by Javier Zentner (GCC)

A wonderful piece- I would love to hear with score in hand. Bravo!

La Muerte del Angel, by Astor Piazolla (GCC)

Chacarera de las Piedras, by Atahualps Yupanqui, arr. Gustavo Felice (no publisher info)

Milonguera, by Oscar Escalada (Kjos)

This was a great program which I am sure Galen is very proud of putting together. All his singers were in fine form and much of this music is quite difficult- what you hope to do is sing it so well and so naturally that it doesn't appear to be so daunting at all! I especially loved the first song, the Zentner and the Piazolla of course. I don't know the full story about how Galen researched all this, but maybe I can ask him soon. He did tell me that it was really hard to figure out what to use, since there were hundreds of great tunes he had sifted through. In addition to the very fine singing and conducting, guitarist Socrates Garcia (now that's a cool name) brought so much electricity and joy to the music; his smile and love of performing shone through on the two pieces he played on and the audience loved him.

Bravo to the singers- all this intricate and expressive music was fully memorized- no small feat!

Azusa Pacific University Chamber Singers, dir. by Michelle Jensen

In Windsor Forest, by RV Williams

This was a sheer delight, Vaughn Williams' five-movement cantata for SATB/chamber string orchestra/piano written in 1931; an adaptation of scenes from his opera "Sir John [Falstaff] in Love". The singing was spot-on cheery and felicitous and from where I was sitting, off to the side, you could see the smiling playfulness between conductor Jensen and her choir and instrumentalists. Two performers were standouts-- the first I'll mention was Arie Moriguchi, who had a couple solo spots as the Queen/Mrs. Quickly. Arie's voice and acting was perfect for this. The other standout was the young pianist Anna Nizhegorodtseva, whose supple phrasing, shading of color, and brilliant sense of rhythm added so much to the ensemble sound (and who knew Vaughn Williams wrote so well for the piano? Ms. Nizhegorodtseva was one of my very favorite pianists who performed over the three day stretch of concerts.

Michelle Jensen was wonderful, she presented this little-known piece in such a charming and playful way. I did get to talk to Michelle a couple times about the music- she is a very gregarious musician who loves to talk passionately about music and I also discovered that we are both former harpists. She has the distinction of studying, over a period of time at USC, with three amazing teachers there- William Dehning, Paul Salamunovich, and now finishing up her choral music DMA with Mike Scheibe. Oh and btw, this choir was full of beautiful southern California folks with posture so impeccable that it would bring a smile to any Alexander technique teacher observing them. Great singer posture, smiles, delightful music, and a very positive conductor inviting singers and audience inside the music and action led to a great performance.

Free harp joke of the day- Stravinsky: "Harpists spend 90 percent of their lives tuning their harps and 10 percent playing out of tune"

Free viola joke of the day: What's the difference between a viola and an onion? No one cries when you cut up a viola!

Next Post: the day two evening concert

Announcement: If you would like a free pdf file perusal score of my latest advanced SATB piece, please contact me. The piece is a compelling, expressive modern arrangement of William Billings' famous round "When Jesus Wept" for SATB double choir, suitable for college and professional ensembles. It was successfully premiered this past September by Chor Anno, Reg Unterseher conducting, in Vancouver, WA. The duration is six minutes. E-mail me at for a pdf file.

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