Vocal Arts Society offers challenging, diverse program

Concert fare ranges from Renaissance to Kern and Jobim



With a selection of classical music over the usual springtime pops fare, the Arundel Vocal Arts Society's David Daniel directed a musically challenging, interestingly diverse program May 12..

For the second spring, the choristers returned to the acoustically excellent Annapolis Area Christian School's Kerr Center for the Arts in Severn.

Again this spring it welcomed the school's Madrigal Singers, who opened the program with delightful a cappella renditions of French Renaissance madrigals: "Il est Bel et Bon" ("He is Handsome and Good") by Pierre Passereau and "Je Le Vous Dirai" ("I'll Tell You What I Know") by Pierre Certon.

The chorus of eight young women and seven young men seemed at home in this realm and brought a fresh, youthful vitality to the stage.

Singing as they arrived onstage, the Arundel Vocal Arts Society choristers entered casually, facing each other as if in dialogue instead of immediately lining up on risers in the more formal, traditional stance.

This arrangement happily forced the singers to look at each other instead of down at their music - something that limits eye contact with the audience.

They also sang lively drinking songs and others including the celebratory "Now is the Month of Maying" by Thomas Morley that displayed the female voices to full advantage.

Franz Schubert's melodic "Der Tanz" (The Dance) evoked a note of German romanticism, which became even more pronounced in the performance of Felix Mendelssohn's "Liebe und Wein" ("Love and Wine") in which Daniel, the director, took a solo role, displaying a pleasant baritone and familiar ease with the German language.

The musical world tour continued with a nod to Russian opera in Tchaikovsky's Eugene Onegin waltz, featuring a solo by Kevin Powers, with the chorus doing justice to the lilting music.

After intermission, the chorus offered works by composers Johannes Brahms and Stephen Paulus, preceding an interlude of instrumental music by a guest ensemble from Springfield, Va., consisting of Tommy Beekmanon on guitar, Carlo Cantason on violin, Dean Christesen on drums and Justin Moore on bass.

While talented, the group made musical choices that were incongruous, and I found its last number too long. The quartet would have fit in better had it limited its selections to "Autumn Leaves," Jobim's "Chega de Saudade" and Kern's "All the Things You Are" without the jarring intrusion of the Herbie Hancock number.

The return of the vocalists offered a highlight of the evening: a fun segment featuring contemporary composer Paul Carey's "Play with your Food!" It was irresistibly fresh and delightful as the choristers recited the "Mashed Potato/Love Poem" (set to Sidney Hoddes' words):

"If I ever had to choose between you and a third helping of mashed potato whipped lightly with a fork not whisked and a little pool of butter melting in the middle, I think I'd choose the mashed potato. But I'd choose you next."

In that festive spirit of eating, drinking and being merry, the program closed with "Auld Lang Syne."

The preceding number, Henry Mancini's "Days of Wine and Roses," however, lacked the chorus' usual distinctive, warm quality - perhaps because of the overworked arrangement.

Still, it was a noteworthy concert that required great effort from the singers, and the conductor deserves applause.

With two concerts with the society under his belt, Daniel is exploring new horizons that should make for an exciting season next fall.

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