Vocal Arts Ensemble Opens Season with Choice Program
Mary Ellyn Hutton
Posted: Oct 18, 2012 - 3:05:27 PM in
Patrick Dupre Quigley leading the Vocal Arts Ensemble with guitarist Jeremy Collins Oct. 7 at Memorial Hall in Cincinnati
Cincinnati's Vocal Arts Ensemble opened its 2012-2013 season in collaboration with the Constella Festival of Music and Fine Arts Oct. 7 at Memorial Hall.
Led by guest conductor Patrick Dupré Quigley, the concert continued the focus on new American music begun by VAE music director Donald Nally with works by Jake Runestad, Morten Lauridsen, Ingram Marshall, Álvaro Bermúdez and Jeffrey Van. Quigley, founding artistic director of the acclaimed Seraphic Fire chamber choir (Miami (Florida), was right at home with both the ensemble and the repertoire. Seraphic Fire, a two-time Grammy Award nominee, is noted for its adventurous programming.
The sound Quigley drew from the 24-voice professional choir was robust and well-blended, with beautiful tone colors, pinpoint diction and finely nuanced expression (one wondered if the abundant greenery in the hall provided extra O2 for the singers). The concert opened with “I Will Lift Mine Eyes” (2006) by Runestad, a bright, affirmative prelude to Lauridsen’s 1980 “Mid-Winter Songs" on poems by Robert Graves. The first, “Lament for Pasiphae,” began with the exclamation, “Dying sun, shine warm a little longer!” Pianist Elena Kholodova heightened the drama with crashing chords. “She Tells Her Love While Half Asleep” was like a gentle interlude, with a lengthy passage for piano, beautifully rendered by Kholodova. There was a sudden stirring of activity – and hope for Spring -- in “Midwinter Awaking,” while “Intercession in Late October” was like a prayer (“Spare him a little longer, Crone”), dying away softly at the end.
Marshall's “Hymnodic Delays” (1997), three early American hymns originally composed for vocal quartet using digital delay technology, was performed by 16 members of the VAE, including the central quartet. It made a remarkable impression, with the sound traveling through the choir almost voice by voice in “Bright Hour Delayed” and occasional “electronic” effects, such as sudden fades and rising and falling pitches, in “Swept Away.”
Colombian composer Bermúdez’ lovely “Padre Nuestro” was dance-like and folkish, followed by Van’s “A Procession Winding Around Me” for choir and guitar. Composer/guitarist Van’s 1991 cantata, with texts drawn from Walt Whitman’s Civil War poems, was ideally situated in Memorial Hall, built in 1906 as a memorial to veterans of the Civil War. Guitarist Jeremy Collins utilized his instrument prodigiously, as both melody and percussion. The opening “By the bivouac’s fitful flame” was dirge-like, with a central emphasis on the word “love” and a soft unresolved ending. By contrast, “Beat! Beat! Drums!” exploded with anger. Collins created snare-drum-like sounds here and punctuated the text with loud dissonant strumming (no wonder he had to re-tune his guitar before the next movement.)
“Look down, fair moon” was bleak and despondent, the choristers humming and whistling now and then and Collins creating many sound effects on his guitar. Whitman’s great “Reconciliation” brought the concert to a deeply felt conclusion -- “a man divine as myself is dead” reads the text – simulating a lullaby at one point, and ending on a hopeful, major chord.
Introduced at the reception following the concert was the Young Professionals’ Choral Collective, a new volunteer chorus for young professionals, who sang two bright numbers for the VAE guests. The group, led by co-artistic directors KellyAnn Nelson and Christopher Eanes, has a concert coming up Oct. 30 at the Emery Theater (“In the Dark of Night,” note the date and extrapolate content accordingly). For information, visit their web site at www.choralcollective.com
or on Facebook at www.Facebook.com/choralcollective.