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There was a tinge of sadness along with a mood of celebration and joy as Voices, The Chapel Hill Chorus brought a triumphant conclusion to their 18 years under the direction of Dr. Sue T. Klausmeyer. One more concert, on May 19 at Holy Trinity Lutheran Church with Klausmeyer at the helm of Cantari will conclude her outstanding career as conductor and music director of these community singers. Her laid back and affable style has attracted talented singers who have brought enthusiasm and dedication to these performances. Concerts featuring glorious Christmas music, grand oratorios, delightful folk song arrangements and more, have pleased a growing audience. She will be greatly missed.
This penultimate concert, titled "Castles and Cottages" began in a castle with two of the stirring anthems George Frideric Handel wrote for the coronation of King George II and Queen Caroline. "Zadok, the Priest" is the epitome of royalty. It is introduced with a steady driving beat with arpeggios, increasing in anticipation of the resolution of cadence and the explosive choral entrance – a veritable vocal fanfare. To hear this anthem so gloriously performed is to know there is some royalty in each of us... there just has to be.
The second anthem, The King Shall Rejoice is set in four separate movements and offers some of the equally scintillating glory of royalty. The sparkling trumpets were offered by Mary Bowden, Julio Jeri and Renee McGee. The timpanist was Nathan Mason and the organist was John Alexander.
Haydn's Te Deum in C is a choral setting of the ancient hymn of praise, in three movements, dedicated to the Empress Maria Therese, wife of Franz I. To the usual Classical orchestra, Haydn adds three trumpets performed crisply by Bowden, Jeri and McGee and timpani precisely articulated by Mason. This charming and intimate work shows some of the ingenious work of Haydn in a variety of circumstances.
The first selection after an intermission provided an interlude between the castles and cottages: Ralph Vaughan Williams' Serenade to Music, which was part of a 1938 tribute concert honoring Sir Henry J. Wood for his 50 years of service to music. For his contribution to the occasion, Vaughan Williams chose text from Shakespeare's The Merchant of Venice, scoring it for orchestra and 16 specifically named internationally recognized soloists.
Sergei Rachmaninoff who performed his Piano Concerto No. 2 in the first half of the concert, now sat in the Wood's box, with the conductor Felix Weingartner who later recalled that Rachmaninoff sat at the back of the box and during the performance of the Serenade, his eyes filled with tears. When asked about this, Rachmaninoff said, "The only thing I recall is being very deeply moved by the music and wishing I could compose such music."
There have been several alternative settings of Serenade to Music: full orchestra without vocal parts at all, orchestra with vocal parts adapted to chorus and 4 soloists. Piano-vocal arrangement, etc. Tonight, Voices presented an arrangement for piano, chorus and 4 of the most critical solo parts, and with the crucial solo violin. The parts fell into place more and more comfortably as the piece progressed. By the end, some of RVW's most gorgeous music had taken flight at University United Methodist Church. The four soloists, soprano Jordan Winslow, alto Laura Alexander, tenor Derek Jackenheimer, and bass Derek Gracey were marvelous and I believe Alexander recalled the sturdy, soaring beauty of Dame Eva Turner for whom the part she sang was written. (You might want to check out that original recording made by the designated artists ten days after the premiere.) Violinist Michael Sparks added the transcendent solo that soars above all else.
The cottages portion of the program was represented by six charming and beautiful folksongs: three from Scotland and three from America.
The first folksong was the Scottish treasure, "Loch Lomond," which started off with an a cappella solo by Jackenheimer, included a verse by the men of the chorus and a verse by the women, an imaginative rhythmical verse, and ended with another verse by the outstanding soloist.
Renee Clausen's setting of Robert Burn's poem, "O My Luve is Like a Red, Red Rose," gave us a glimpse of the Romantic ideals that prevailed in 19th century Scotland.
In a setting by 21st century composer, Jay Altman, the theme song of the very popular TV series, Outlander, "Skye Boat Song," took us to the 18th century and the brutal Battle of Culloden, where Bonnie Prince Charlie, facing defeat, escaped to the Isle of Skye. It featured baritone and alto solos, topped off with a lovely tune reminiscent of a traditionally Scottish folksong.
The three American folksongs were "Shenandoah" in the bewitching a cappella version by James Erb, sung with mystical and ethereal wistfulness. This was followed by two fun songs with snappy rhythms: "Polly Wolly Doodle" in a setting by John Leavitt and "Unclouded Day," arranged by Shawn Kirchner. Both were sung with enticing charm.