The Collegiate Chorale
(Collegiate Chorale Website)
James Bagwell, Music Director
American Symphony Orchestra
(American Symphony Orchestra Website)
A Jubilant Song
Gala Inaugural Concert Introducing
Music Director, James Bagwell
Roger Rees, Host
Press: Michelle Tabnick Communications
Dr. Roberta E. Zlokower
December 1, 2009
Giovanni Gabriel: In ecclesiis, (Michele Eaton, Eileen Clark, Daniel Gundlach, Biraj Birkakaty, John Young, Eric Dudley, Steven Moore, Timothy Hill,
Alexander Kopylov: Svete Tihiy
Arr. Robert Shaw: Set Down Servant, (Jane Askins, Christopher Roselli, Soloists).
Norman Dello Joio: A Jubilant Song, (Elizabeth Hillebrand, Soloist, Kenneth Bowen, Pianist).
Leonard Bernstein and Alan J. Lerner: Excerpts from A White House Cantata, (Daniel Mobbs, President, Emily Pulley, First Lady, Kalif Omari Jones, Little Lud, Anita Johnson, Seena, Robert Mack, Lud).
Giacomo Mayerbeer: O beau pays from Les Huguenots, (Erin Morley, Soprano, Heather Hill, Wendy Baker, Sarah Bleasdale, Trio).
Ludwig van Beethoven: Choral Fantasy, Op. 80, (Jenny Lin, Piano, Erin Morley, Soprano, Sarah Best, Mezzo-soprano, Krysty Swann, Mezzo-soprano, Vale Rideout, Tenor, Richard Byrne, Tenor, Daniel Mobbs, Bass-baritone).
Giuseppe Verdi: Libiamo ne’ lieti calici from La Traviata, (Erin Morley, Soprano).
Tonight’s Inaugural tribute to The Collegiate Chorale’s new Music Director, James Bagwell, was eclectic and sometimes inspiring. A Jubilant Song had a few jubilant moments, especially when soprano, Erin Morley, one of tonight’s featured soloists, was introduced in the Mayerbeer excerpt from Les Huguenots. The Collegiate Chorale, as a choral ensemble, is in fine form and truly one of the finest chorales I’ve ever heard. My last Collegiate Chorale review was in 2006, and moments from that evening still replay in my mind. What I took away from that evening were luscious melody, truly operatic solos, and a feeling of being transported for two hours or so into a realm of reverie and renewal. Unfortunately, tonight’s program choices offered little in the way of melodic bliss.
A White House Cantata, excerpted with five guest soloists, was jarring, tedious, and replete with cartoonish theatrical gestures. Emily Pulley, as First Lady, was shrill and ostentatious. Yet, Daniel Mobbs, as President, caught my attention and is an artist to revisit. Kalif Omari Jones (a young artist to watch), Anita Johnson, and Robert Mack all sang with full, clear voices and deserve better showcasing. Immediately I knew why I wasn’t familiar with this work. The audience remained unconnected, fidgeting, and applause was measured. But, when Ms. Morley appeared on the heels of the above dissonance, in the Mayerbeer, the audience erupted in vocal accolades.
The Gabriel In ecclesiis was an elegant introduction to the evening, but the Kopylov work, with The Chorale using their feet for added rhythm, was rarely pleasant. Dello Joio’s A Jubilant Song, edgy and fascinating, was an excellent choice, with Kenneth Brown’s piano solos and Elizabeth Hillebrand’s vocal solos. Its theme of spiritual joy included sparkling percussive effects. Beethoven’s Choral Fantasy was another highlight of the evening (next to the Mayerbeer), and Jenny Lin’s piano solos were exceptionally radiant and spirited. With six operatic soloists, including the stunning Ms. Morley, Ms. Best, Ms. Swann, Mr. Rideout, Mr. Byrne, and Mr. Mobbs, Beethoven’s expressive work, with themes of spirit, strength, beauty, and love, rewarded the Carnegie Hall audience with some of those jubilant moments mentioned earlier.
The Verdi excerpt from La Traviata was sung by Ms. Morley in solo, as Salvatore Licitra, listed on the program, was unable to appear. His effusively gracious note was read just as graciously by tonight’s dynamic Host, Roger Rees. The audience, although invited to participate, seemed to relax in the luxury of Ms. Morley’s scintillating song. American Symphony Orchestra performed with richly resonant accompaniment.
Congratulations to Maestro Bagwell, and I look forward to future, but differently programmed concerts.