The 70-voice Laurel Lake Encore Chorale, under the direction of Donna Anderson and accompanied by Ruth Anderson, presented an exciting series of three Spring Concerts for packed houses on May 2, 3 and 6, 2016 in Laurel Lake’s Community Room. The Chorale was joined by violinist Amy Schneider and drummer Jill Rango for the first two concerts, and violinist Dr. Marlene Moses, bassist Brian King and drummer Patrick Wagner for the “grand finale” May 6th concert.
This season’s repertoire was noteworthy not only for its contrasting musical styles, but also for the diverse vocal techniques required of the singers.
A spirited Simple Praise by Craig Courtney opened the concert, singers delivering the early American-style folk tune with heart, energy and a rich, full sound. The lyrics were perfect: "For a canvas of color, for a concert of sound, for the unfolding seasons, the earth spinning round...for these simple gifts, we give simple praise."
Next, Aaron Copland’s dynamic Ching-A-Ring Chaw! took choir and audience on a fast-paced musical romp. The choir’s many hours of preparation paid off as they performed the piece joyously and with great diction, right down to the "ching-a-rings" imitating a banjo's sound.
Next, two altos (or “washed-up sopranos,” as they described themselves) Karen Bennett and Cindee Kanzigg delighted audiences with The Copyscat Rag by Linda Spevacek. It was pure theater as the pair performed this campy, fun, “anything you can do, I can do better” duet laced with banter and competitive scat-singing runs. Brava, ladies!
The Chorale then paid rousing tribute to one of America’s best loved songwriters, Cole Porter. The sassy, sophisticated 8 ½ minute medley, “Let’s Fall In Love” arranged by Jay Althouse, packed in seven show-stopping songs: Let’s Do It (Let’s Fall In Love),It’s De Lovely, Night and Day, I’ve Got You Under My Skin, Begin The Beguine, Every Time We Say Goodbye, and It Was Just One Of Those Things. The singers really had fun with this collection, making the tricky syncopations, close jazz harmonies and witty lyrics sound easy.
In a major shift of vocal styles, the Chorale moved into 15th century composer Giovanni Pierluigi da Palestrina’s Sicut Cervus. Based on Psalm 42:1 (Latin translation “As the deer longs for running water, so longs my soul for You, O God), this ethereal motet with “boy choir” sound was one of the most difficult – and rewarding – pieces of the season for our group to master. Their blend was marvelous, each of the four moving parts weaving into a beautiful whole.
Vocal technique shifted again – dramatically – as Encore singers launched into I’m Going Home, arranged by Pepper Choplin. This Sacred Harp tune predates the Civil War and harkens back to the roots of shape-note singing. Our singers were granted a reprieve from the usual choral singing "rules" and reveled in this sturdy, natural style with its ringing chords, hummed consonants, swoops and slides, unapologetic "R's", and the time beaten by each singer's hand.
Last year marked the 150th anniversary of the Civil War, so the concert continued on that theme. On May 2 & 3, fiddler Amy Schneider performed The Blue River Waltz unaccompanied, then was joined by Jill Rango on snare drum for a historic medley of Civil War songs including When Johnny Comes Marching Home, The Battle Cry of Freedom, and Battle Hymn of the Republic.
There wasn’t a dry eye in the house as Amy joined the Chorale for a moving performance of Ashokan Farewell, arranged by Grian McGregor. This evocative waltz is woven throughout Ken Burn’s film, The Civil War. The singers’ lush harmonies and sensitive phrasing were answered perfectly by our violinist’s gorgeous improvisations.
At the May 6 concert, violinist Marlene Moses also performed this piece with the Chorale, then graced us with Antonín Dvořák’s Humoresque and Four Romantic Pieces for violin and piano.
In a raucous, rousing conclusion to the evening’s festivities, the Chorale sang Down by the Riverside (arr. Carl Strommen) with drum and bass. The singers’ passionate delivery, bouncing rhythms, and rock-solid a capella bridge had audiences on their feet, whistling, clapping, and demanding a reprise. Which they got!
Congratulations on another amazing season, Laurel Lake Encore Chorale! Rehearsals for our 2016 Holiday Season start on Tuesday, September 13 at 3 p.m. We look forward to welcoming new and returning singers then!
Click "Read More" to see photos of the concert
Read more: Laurel Lake Encore Chorale "Mixes it Up" for May 2016 Concerts
Things "got festive" this week as the Laurel Lake Encore Chorale presented three standing-room-only Holiday Concerts at Laurel Lake Retirement Community in Hudson, Ohio. The 70-voice choir under the direction of Donna Anderson presented "Sounds of the Season," a sleigh full of traditional and modern carols and songs celebrating Christmas and Hanukkah.
The excitement started Monday, Dec. 14 at 7:00 PM as the Chorale opened its first concert with John Purifoy's energetic "Carols of the Angels," a modern take on three beloved angel carols. This was immediately followed by Lloyd Larson's lush setting of "The First Noel." Both pieces displayed the Chorale's rich 4-part harmony and beautiful depth of sound.
Amy Hartman next joined forces with Ruth Anderson for "Noel of the Birds," a lively flute/piano duet by Jacques Berthier in which the flute mimics birdsong. Our audience was charmed!
Then came "Light," the shimmering third movement from Michael Isaacson's "Aspects of a Great Miracle," reflecting the hope of Hanukkah. Our singers flawlessly performed the graceful melodic lines and complex, dissonant harmonies that make this piece quietly spectacular. "Lighting the darkness of cold despair, blessing tomorrow with warmth to share."
Soprano Donna Anderson next sang “Some Children See Him,” the treasured Alfred Burt carol that has an important message for all of us in these troubled times.
Read more: Holidays Merrier, Brighter with Laurel Lake Encore Chorale!
The 70-voice Laurel Lake Encore Chorale under the direction of Donna Anderson presented a series of three superb Holiday Concerts for standing-room-only audiences at Laurel Lake Retirement Community in Hudson, Ohio one week before Christmas.
The marathon of marvelous music-making kicked off Monday, Dec. 15 at 7:00 PM with a lively performance in tandem with the 25-piece Metro Parks Ensemble, an all-volunteer orchestra under conductor Karen Bennett which performs in the Summit County Metro Parks. The Chorale opened with a spritely rendition of the New England carol, "Over The River and Through The Woods" (arr. James Eliot) followed by "Winter Beautiful," a contemporary piece by Vicki Tucker Courtney and John Parker, on loan from the Encore Creativity Choral Library. The singers performed this tender ballad with sensitivity, shimmering harmonies and beautiful unison passages. The Metro Parks Ensemble then stepped up with a delightful swing band version of "Winter Wonderland" (arr. Michael Storey) that had every toe tapping.
Next, the Chorale performed their most difficult piece -- "Snowfall" by Claude & Ruth Thornhill, in a smooth jazz arrangement recorded by Manhattan Transfer (arr. Roger Emerson). Joined by percussionist Jill Rango playing a brush drum pattern and Ruth Anderson on piano, the choristers delivered a flawless performance of the hushed, close and often angular jazz harmonies that took considerable effort to master. The choir then switched gears again with a boisterous “Russian Dance” from Tchaikovsky’s “Nutcracker” (arr. Jeff Funk) sung entirely on “Fa la la” and “plum.”
The Metro Parks Ensemble kept the energy going with a humorous piece, “Santa Meets the Big Bands” (arr. James Plohhar), then quieted things down again with James Swearingen’s beautiful interpretation of “Silent Night,” ushering in a sacred Christmas portion of the program. The Chorale sang “Promise of Peace,” inspired by the beloved 19th century text “Watchman, Tell Us of the Night” with poignant new music by Mark Hayes. Their full, rich sound, artistic phrasing and careful diction were very moving. Next, Andre J. Thomas’ rhythmic arrangement of the West Indies carol, “The Virgin Mary Had A Baby Boy,” with percussionist Jill Rango on the cajón box drum created a wonderful “island” feel. The choir performed this piece with great gusto and accented rhythms, culminating in a ringing final chord. The final piece in this set, the traditional Burgundian carol “Pat-a-pan” (arr. Mark Burrows) had the singers playfully weaving the pat-a-pan and tu-re-lu-re-lu motifs throughout the piece, with Amy Hartman’s flute and Jill Rango’s hand drum lending an ancient flavor to the complex setting. The choir clearly loved it, and so did the audience!
Finally, the Encore Chorale and Metro Parks Ensemble joined forces for “Holiday Favorites,” (arr. Roger Emerson) a medley of Let It Snow, Rudolph The Red-Nosed Reindeer, Jingle Bell Rock, Silver Bells and Frosty The Snowman, with the audience joyfully singing along. The concert closed with a lively performance of John Rutter’s delightful “We With You A Merry Christmas” by the Chorale.
The Encore Chorale performed this concert two more times during the week with different guest artists, and each performance was a rousing success! On Tuesday December 16 at 3:00 PM, a brass octet known as The Tuba-Fours joined the Chorale, performing “Angels We Have Heard on High,” “Coventry Carol,” “O Come, O Come Emmanuel” and a witty variation on “Jingle Bells,” all compiled and arranged by Alec Wilder and Norman Bewly for tuba choir. The Friday, December 19 concert at 3:00 PM featured four-hands piano duets by Ruth Anderson and noted classical organist and hand bell composer/arranger H. Dean Wagner: “Bring A Torch, Jeannette Isabella,” “What Child Is This,” and “God Rest Ye Merry, Gentleman” (arr. Joel Raney).
Punch and cookie receptions followed each concert as our singers, instrumentalists, friends and family members celebrated the very successful conclusion of another Laurel Lake Encore Chorale holiday season!
VIEW PHOTO ALBUM OF CONCERT HERE.
The Laurel Lake Encore Chorale, featuring 65 singers from throughout the Greater Cleveland/Akron metropolitan area, performed back-to-back Holiday Concerts for over 300 people on December 16 & 17 at Laurel Lake Retirement Community.
Joining the Chorale was guest artist Gregory Fiocca, an accomplished teacher and Principal Cellist for Mastersingers Inc. of Northeast Ohio. Greg was Principal Cellist in the Akron Symphony for five seasons and has performed with the Canton, Columbus and Youngstown Symphonies, the Cleveland Jazz Orchestra, and the Playhouse Square Orchestra in Cleveland’s theater district.
The Chorale opened both concerts with John Rutter’s shimmering “Candlelight Carol,” a lush and tender piece that evokes images of angel choirs in a starlit sky. The singers performed its unison and a capella passages with delicacy, "blossoming" into the glorious chorus of “Gloria, Gloria in excelsis deo!”
Next came Vicki Tucker Courtney’s “Hanukkah, The Season of Light,” performed so expressively by the Chorale with cellist Gregory Fiocca. The choir’s rich harmonies blended perfectly with the haunting cello accompaniment for this concert piece which conveys the message of Hanukkah.
Greg was then joined by pianist Ruth Anderson for a gorgeous cello/piano duet, Liz Story’s pairing of “Bring A Torch, Jeanette Isabella” with “When Blossoms Flowered ‘Mid The Snows.” Audience and singers were mesmerized by the deep, rich voice of the cello interwoven with the delicate sounds of Laurel Lake’s new Kawai Conservatory Grand Piano.
A light-hearted Carol Sing-along with the audience set the stage for the Chorale’s next piece, the hilarious “Twelve Days After Christmas.” Our singers performed this spoof on the iconic holiday song with all the energy, drama and diction of a Broadway cast, earning plenty of laughter and smiles from the audience.
A second piano and cello duet, Mark Haye’s dramatic arrangement of “Coventry Carol,” was followed by the Chorale’s performance of “In The Bleak Midwinter.” Tom Fettke and Thomas Grassi’s treatment of this classic tune by Christina Rossetti and Gustav Holst, with its warm harmonies and hushed, beautifully sustained unison note at the end, truly touched the audience.
The real show-stopper of this concert was the festive medieval carol, “On This Day, Earth Resounds,” arranged by Robert Sieving with handbell accompaniment and mingling both English and Latin texts. The Chorale sang this dynamic, angular piece with great confidence, culminating in a resounding, thrilling 7-part final cord!
Bouncing back to modern times, the concert closed with a charming medley of "Holiday Favorites" arranged by Roger Emerson with Laurel Lake personal trainer Jill Rango playing the drums. Audience members joined the Chorale in singing Let It Snow!, Rudolph The Red-Nosed Reindeer, Jingle Bell Rock, Silver Bells, and Frosty The Snowman with gusto. What a delightful way to end this very successful season!