The 70-voice Laurel Lake Encore Chorale did it again this Spring, impressing with a program appropriately themed, “From Bach to Broadway.” Singers and audiences alike agreed that this was the most ambitious, most rewarding program ever sung by the choir!
Under the direction of Donna Anderson and accompanied by Ruth Anderson, the Chorale presented three inspirational concerts for standing-room-only crowds on May 15, 16 and 19, 2017 in Laurel Lake’s Community Room. Our singers were joined by talented percussionist Jill Rango.
The Chorale kicked things off with George and Ira Gershwin’s solid gold Broadway tune, “Clap Yo’ Hands” (arr. King), delivering the high-energy opener with verve and great diction. From this exciting start, they moved into one of the most emotional ballads of all time, “Somewhere” from Leonard Bernstein’s West Side Story (arr. Stickles). Their blend on this piece was flawless.
Next up: “Grace,” a moving arrangement by Mark Hayes which pairs the familiar hymn text of “Amazing Grace” with the folk melody, “The Water Is Wide.” The "flowing water" accompaniment and surprising harmonies touched audiences as the choir poured their hearts into this piece.
In a first, our singers performed the next song entirely a cappella with shaker and drums as the only accompaniment. “Shosholoza” – from “Two South African Folk Songs” arranged by Ruth Morris Gray – is Zulu for “to push forward.” First sung by migrant workers in Zimbabwe’s gold and diamond mines, the folk tune became a symbol of the struggle against apartheid. In the opening, our singers perfectly mimicked the rhythmic pulsing “shhhhhhh-k” of a steam locomotive before launching into the song’s ringing, call-and-response harmonies. Many declared this to be their favorite song of the season!
Next, the Chorale offered two beloved classical pieces – although not, we are certain, quite as their composers originally intended.
Linda Spevacek’s “A Gentle Alleluia” transformed J.S. Bach's "Air" from "Suite in D" into a choral tapestry of sound, allowing the singers to experience this Baroque era classic in a fresh way. Kudos especially to our sopranos for their confident handling of the melodic line.
It was the choir’s delivery of Giocchino Rossini’s “William Tell Overture” (arr. Eschliman), however, that really stole the show! Complete with costumes (apple-and-arrow headgear and black masks), and theatrics (a dramatic “Hi-yo, Silver, awaaaaay!” delivered by one of our basses) and sung entirely on syllables imitating the sounds of the original orchestral score, this hilarious, tongue-in-cheek parody was a blast to sing. Mastering this one was tricky even for our most experienced singers, but they did it!
Moving from the ridiculous to the sublime, the Chorale’s heart-felt “Wings of the Dawn” by Linda Spencer moved many to tears. This gorgeous piece based on Psalm 139 has become a signature piece for this choir: “And if I rise on the wings of the dawn, if I settle on the far side of the sea; even there Your hand will guide me, Your right hand will hold me fast.”
In a rousing finish, the Encore Chorale presented selections from Meredith Willson’s “The Music Man” (arr. Clay Warnick) that nearly brought the house down and inspired a standing ovation! The 10-minute tribute featured “Goodnight, My Someone,” “Pick A Little, Talk A Little” with “Goodnight, Ladies,” “Gary, Indiana,” “Lida Rose” with “Will I Ever Tell You,” “The Wells Fargo Wagon,” “Til There Was You,” and “Seventy Six Trombones.” Our singers truly captured the charm and wit of this musical comedy, singing the tight barbershop harmonies, fast-paced lyrics and exciting theme song with enthusiasm.
Congratulations on another amazing season, Laurel Lake Encore Chorale! Rehearsals for our 2017 Holiday Season start on Tuesday, September 12 at 3 p.m.
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