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How many Meredith College musical entities did it take to put on the second annual “Winterfest – A musical celebration of this joyous season” in Jones Auditorium? The answer probably depends on who’s counting, but it was indeed considerable. Herewith, a docket roughly in order of initial appearance.
Opening were conductor Jim Waddelow and the Meredith Sinfonietta announcing that “It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year.” This ensemble reappeared throughout with several more seasonal favorites, at times with student conductors Erica Rogers, Sarah Eichvalds and Emily McLawhorn. They featured soprano Mary Royal Hight and smoky torch singer Meagan Coble. Rose Turchi, Taylor Layne and Sarah Moseley were commendable soloists in a later set. Special praise is due orchestral arrangers Erica Rogers, Sarah Moore, Sarah Eichvalds, Emily McLawhorn and Meagan Coble. Sounding confident and well rehearsed, the players were at their best – perhaps ever – in the “Fantasia on Greensleeves.” The prominent flute and harp, presumably with Andrea McKerlie and Karla Shuford, were particularly appealing. Adding a new dimension to the piece were the six skilled Meredith Dancers.
Three sections of the program were called “Everyone Sings,” an obvious invitation for all frustrated vocalists in the audience to demonstrate their (generally debatable) skills. And providing accompaniment for these songs was who else but David Lynch, justly venerated organist and erstwhile longtime head of the Meredith music department. He also accompanied the closing “Personent Hodie,” a Meredith tradition involving all the singing groups.
The first vocal group to appear was the Meredith Chorus, with conductor James Shaw Smith and accompanist Brenda Fernandez (who incidentally was a most supportive pianist here and with a later group). The twenty-five singers showed fine precision, performing sometimes a cappella and without use of score. In a jazz version of “Let It Snow!” they were strongly aided by soloist Angel Lewallen. (Conner Dixon had been soloist in this same Winterfest program presented earlier in the day.)
Conductor Pamela Nelson’s Meredith Flute Choir came on with four works. Their technique in “Parade of the Wooden Soldiers” was first rate, and the jazz version of “We Three Kings” was intimidating.
The Meredith Chorale with Fran Page, conductor and music department head, brought gorgeous sound to selections from Britten’s memorable Ceremony of Carols. Minneapolis-based composer Paul Lohman’s “What Child” could scarcely have been more charming. This work should become a staple of choral literature. The singers’ choreographic expertise was evident in the spiritual, “Children Go Where I Send Thee.”
Encore, a group comprising eight a cappella singers and led by Tricia Strong, expertly covered a wide spectrum from the elegant classics to 50’s style doo-wop.
Despite the need for a bit of judicious editing for length, this evening (along with the afternoon edition) was festive, celebratory and downright enjoyable, showcasing the wealth of Meredith talent standing at the ready.