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Choral Music, Music Review Print



Bel Canto Company Ushers in the Holiday Season with Beautiful Singing


Event  Information

Greensboro -- ( Sat., Dec. 10, 2022 - Mon., Dec. 12, 2022 )

Bel Canto Company, Choral Arts Collective: Glad Tidings
First Baptist Church of Greensboro , http://belcantocompany.com

December 10, 2022 - Greensboro, NC:


Three choirs representing the Choral Arts Collective presented a magnificent concert Saturday night in the First Baptist Church in Greensboro before a large audience. The music selections explored the mysterious, the joyous, the tender, and the exuberant. Both new and old works were on hand and provided a splendid showcase for each ensemble, sometimes separately, sometimes joining together. All singing showed an outstanding level of artistry.

Artistic Director and conductor Welborn Young kicked off the evening with a raucous presentation of "Noel" by Todd Smith (US, b. 1981), arranged by Brad Holmes, sung by the combined forces of Bel Canto Company and Gate City Voices. This African a cappella number features djembe (an African drum), cowbell, and handclaps with Zeke Duncan, David McDonald, Robert Steinour, and Tandy Brown serving as soloists, two of whom sang from the aisles, offering a "surround sound" aspect. Percussionist Christina Lowder provided the essential rhythmic drive.

Completely contrasting with this buoyant number was the following "Love Came Down" by Jennifer Higdon (US, b. 1962). Sung by the BCC, the beautiful, gentle number featured the clear and soaring singing of soprano Eby Buscher. The tender gem was accompanied by harpist Alicia Reid.

Assistant conductor Brittany Kaehler took over for "What Sweeter Music" by John Rutter (England, 1945), and the 30+ voice BCC was joined again by the additional 30 voices of the GCV. The peaceful work presents a mix of men's and women's choirs, separately and together. Kaehler's evocative conducting style brought forth the "sweeter music" of the title. Organist John Alexander added the solid accompaniment.

Kaehler led the large group in "Angels From the Realms of Glory," arranged by Dan Forrest. This rousing version of the traditional carol featured BCC accompanist Christy Wisuthseriwong along with Anne Lewis, providing the spirited four-hand piano. Kaehler also led the BCC in "I Saw Three Ships," arranged by Mark Riese and "Ain't That a Rockin'" by Stacey Gibbs (US, b. 1964). The former, a delightful arrangement, featured sparkling piano accompaniment by Wisuthseriwong. The latter number was sung a cappella and, well, rocked. "Rejoice and Be Merry" by Rutter, led by Young, also brought the BCC and the GCV together in this lively work with Alexander at the organ.

Young led the BCC in several traditional numbers. "We Three Kings," arranged by Will Todd, featured a "select group," comprised of Nan Wooten, Marlo Nall, and Lauren Johnson. Percussion was provided by Lowder; Wisuthseriwong rounded out the ensemble in this work and in "How Great Our Joy" by Craig Courtney (US, b. 1954). Contrast between men's and women's voices was used to good effect in both "We Three Kings" and the somewhat somber setting of the Courtney. "Deck the Hall," arranged by Jocelyn Hagen, was rhythmically exciting with effective use of soft and loud singing.

The peaceful "Climb to the Top of the Highest Mountain" by Carolyn Jennings (US, b. 1936) brought together BCC and the Greensboro Youth Chorus. The lovely singing that employed both the mature and the youthful voices was delightful.

Young led the BCC in "Out of the Orient Crystal Skies" by Richard Zgodava (US, 1924-2011). The piece began with "oohs and aahs" and featured marked rhythms as well as impressive dynamic shading, exquisitely brought out by the conductor.

Of special note was "O Magnum Mysterium" by Morten Lauridsen (US, b. 1943), which, Young told the audience "entered the canon" in the early 1990s. The a cappella work features exquisite close harmonies with impeccable tuning from the BCC. It was truly a touching performance.

Jazzier and more pop in nature were "We Need a Little Christmas" from the Broadway musical Mame by Jerry Herman (US, 1931-2019) arranged by Mac Huff, and "Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas" arranged by Jay Althouse, with Sam Howell and Robert Steinour serving as soloists. The rhythmic former number featured great playing from both Wisuthseriwong and Lowder. The latter contained both a cappella sections and those with piano accompaniment.

The printed program concluded with a "renovated" version (according to Young) of "O Come All Ye Faithful" arranged by George Wu and sung by BCC and GCV. Renovated, indeed. This syncopated, vigorous work featured Lowder back on djembe and Wisuthseriwong.

The encore was the traditional BCC "Silent Night" arranged by Craig Courtney. The gorgeously evocative work was sung by all the singers, surrounding the audience with the haunting piano part sensitively played by Wisuthseriwong.

I heard from more than one in the audience how they treasure Bill Young and the BCC (as well as its former conductors) for the terrific music offerings brought to the Triad. And I know I probably sound like a broken record (do people still know what a broken record is?) because I say it every time: the BCC holiday concert really initiates the celebration of the season.