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