Soprano Janice Chandler thrills in vocal recital at Shriver Hall Music review

December 08, 1998|By Stephen Wigler | Stephen Wigler,SUN MUSIC CRITIC

Janice Chandler's vocal recital Sunday evening in the Shriver Hall series was a demonstration of intelligent programming as well as of lovely singing.

Other sopranos occasionally select excerpts from larger works. But these are usually arias from popular operas. Chandler's choices were more unusual: Handel's "Eternal Source of Light Divine" (from "Ode for the Birthday of Queen Anne") and "Let the Bright Seraphim" (from "Samson"), in which Chandler and her pianist, Eric Conway, were joined by trumpet player Langston Fitzgerald; and Ann Truelove's aria, "No Word from Tom" (from Stravinsky's "The Rakes Progress"). And while many African-American singers choose to conclude with a selection of traditional spirituals, Chandler's recital had the distinction of closing with a selection of art songs by black American composers based on such songs.

With her fresh, light and agile voice, Chandler was able to join forces with Fitzgerald in the Handel selections and thrill the ear with her ability to sustain musical lines in the upper stratosphere. Stravinsky set considerable store by vocal precision, and he probably would have been pleased by Chandler's singing in "No Word from Tom," which was as remarkable for its vocal sweetness and dramatic projection as for its vocal accuracy.

In songs by Margaret Bonds, Adolphus Hailstork and John Carter, based on African-American folk material, Chandler's identification with the words was thrilling, and her judicious use of jazz inflections was sophisticated without robbing the music of its directness. Her radiant singing was accompanied superbly by Conway.

The Chandler-Conway partnership was equally well suited to the "Air Chantes" of Francis Poulenc. These four songs were endowed with intelligence, power of characterization, vocal purity and a wonderful sense of line.

Although one would have expected Chandler's silvery soprano to have been an ideal instrument for Richard Strauss, it was in four of that composer's lieder that the singer provided the evening's only disappointment. Strauss' songs require a measure of coquettishness mixed in with their tenderness. And coquettishness, or so it appeared in this occasion, is the only weapon missing from Chandler's otherwise complete vocal armory.

Pub Date: 12/08/98

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