Can Belto

On the art of singing and those who practice it…

A Christmas Concert to Cheer

On Dec 19th I attended a Christmas concert put together by the Indianapolis Children’s Choir. As a rule, I don’t attend choral concerts because the kind of singing required for a good choral balance grates my nerves. The concert had the added benefit of having Indianapolis’ own Angela Brown as a guest artist. The last time I saw Angela perform was as Elisabeth di Valois in Don Carlo in Cincinnati. I had the pleasure of attending the 2nd concert as one of Angela’s guests. Boy am I happy to inform she sang gorgeously. Could you imagine if she had sung poorly and me having to write it for all the world to see, after she invited me to attend? Thank Heavens I will not have to do that.

To see a full version of the program click on the pic

The concert was titled Angels Sing and it served to showcase the several choirs that form the Indianapolis Children’s Choir family. We had performers from elementary school level all the way to junior high. I was astounded at the high level of performing I heard all night. Songs were performed in English, German, Hebrew and Russian; they were all sung with skill and poise. Yes, there were a couple of suspect vowels here and there, but try to keep up with all those languages when you are doing them in the same evening; I can tell you from experience it is hard to do. So first kudos for having the courage to expose the kids to music in other languages and further kudos to the kids for digging in and making their language coaches proud with their skill. Second Kudos to all ensembles because the sounded like one voice. Whether performing as individual ensembles or as part of multiple ensemble numbers, the quality of the sound and the blending of the voices impressed me quite a lot.  The Vienna Boys Choir might have the fame, but those kids have nothing on these little Hoosiers. Bravi to all…

The concert was a blend of traditional carols (like Silent Night, performed in German and English), Negro Spirituals like Mary Had a Baby (sung exquisitely by Angela) to more popular fair like Silver Bells. I think whomever did the programing deserves a great big hand because it had a little bit of everything and I can not honestly say I got tired or bored once all night.

The concert started with several carols performed by the Kantorei, Lyric and Chamber choirs. Of those numbers, the stand out was for me Baruch J. Cohon’s (as arranged by Blanche Chass) Hanerot Halalu (A song for Hannukah). Through the evening, other songs for the Jewish holidays were sung. Of all the carols that were sung, these continued to stad out not only because they were not known to be but because they were performed at a consistent high level. It also brought to conscience the beautiful quality and yearning Jewish music has. Even though I am not jewish, hearing those songs made me yearn for home. Bravi.

The fabulous singing and the gorgeous music was coming to us at a maddening pace, even the audience got into the action by being invited to sing in 2 different occasions: It Came Upon a Midnight Clear and God Rest You merry Gentlemen. This made the evening quite enjoyable for me because not only did i get to hear great holiday music, but got into the action a little bit.

Another favorite moment from the concert was provided by the Indianapolis Youth Chorale and their rendition of O Come, O Come Emmanuel in an arrangement by Jay Rousse than included a gorgeous cello solo played by Ross Mappes (an ICC member, I believe). Not only did they sang it beautifully, the arrangement was quite beautiful. This is one 0f my favorite carols and the only thing that would have made it even better for me would have been to have the first verse sung in the original Latin, as the words in that language are incredibly powerful and beautiful.

Along the way, we were also treated to some spectacular singing by Angela Brown. This woman continues to make me proud with her poise, her loving attitude (she signed autographs at a table for over an hour and never did I see her get tired or not smile) and her spectacular voice. She can produce some of the most gorgeous pianissimi you have heard this side of Caballe. She employed those gorgeous pianissimi to wonderful effect in her rendition of I Wonder as I Wander (accompanied by Cantates Angeli & Bel Canto Choirs) and in the climax of a goosebumps-inducing Oh Holy Night where she was joined by all the choirs. I wanted to join in and sing so bad I had to bite my tongue.The music making was just wonderful and the sound of all those choirs singing as one voice was truly awe inspiring. I was hoping for an encore of the piece with the audience invited to join in, I would have let out a Bb the size of Texas. A great ending to the concert.  Angela also got down to her roots, as already pointed out, in a fabulous rendition of Mary Had a Baby. All in all, her participation not only added luster to the events, but she also proved how generous a performer she is by acknowledging the kids with a broad smile when her ovations came; and then tending to them so lovingly during the reception.

The concert had the added bonus of having a fantastic ensemble of artists ready to accompany the singing. Peter Meyer in his clarinet part during the Mi Yitneni Of was evocative and was played gorgeously. Same thing for the Brass Quintetof Larry Powell, Mark DeGoti, Gall Lewis, John Huntoon and melissa Williams; and keyboad (piano and organ) players Anna Briscoe, Martin Ellis, and Rebecca Eddie. Steve Dawson in percussion instruments was also a big part in the success of this ensemble. Lastly, I must mention the great work Richard Prather did all through the night. He didn’t play any instrument, not did he sing a note, but his interpreting in Sign Language, many times in sink with the music added a deeper layer of enjoyment and involvement, at least to this attendee. Thank you.

My last words must go to the people who glued this evening together and who allowed (and guided) all the voices through the music making: I am talking about the choir directors Henry H. leck, Joshua N. Pedde, Ruth E. Dwyer & Cheryl E. West. Their firm baton and guidance resulted on a night where the singing went from strength to strength.

By the way, WTHR (Channel 13) will be telecasting a recording made on the first night of the concerts. If you are in the Indianapolis area on Dec 25th, tune in to Chanel 13.2 at 1:00 PM to enjoy the concert as well.

December 21, 2009 Posted by | Concert Review | | Leave a comment