At the end of a week filled with heavy news and sadness from around the world, choral music is a rescue medicine better than Prozac. Chapel Hill’s community chorus, Voices Summer Chorus performed a collection of joyful, light summer fare by featured guest composer, Elizabeth Alexander and a dozen others including the celebrated English baroque composer, Henry Purcell to Grammy-winning Eric Whitacre. Sue T. Klausmeyer conducted the inspired ensemble with her usual precision and grace. The concert took place at University United Methodist Church.

The title of Alexander’s piece, “Sue Loves Butter,” sounds a little bit corny (or shall I say “filled with saturated fat”). But after listening to the composer’s own words about the complexity of love, the celebration of life and the exuberance of this music, I truly fell for her composition. The playfulness of the text (“Sue loves butter on her bread, and fedoras on her head…”), the rhythmic drive and the originality of composition make this piece one that any chorus would love. Voices sang with the requisite zest and good humor – but also with musical integrity. To our good fortune, this was a premiere performance – a memorable one at that.

There were two more serious pieces: Whitacre’s Five Hebrew Love Songs and “Kiss Me Softly” by Luke Mayernik. With the assistance of Jordan Preuss (Hebrew diction coach) and Irina Bunnage (Russian diction coach), the ensemble captured the essence of the texts. As a result, I was deeply impressed by the intimacy of the poetry by Hila Plitmann. The ensemble’s realization of Whitacre’s music was exceptional, particularly “Kalá Kallá.” I loved the shimmering timbres of “Éyze Shéllig!” Unfortunately, Tasi Matthew‘s beautiful violin performance was covered by the size of the chorus and acoustics of the space. To hear a performance by Ms. Plitmann, click here

The chorus scratched just one composition replacing it with Cole Porter’s timeless “Friendship.” There were plenty more highlights, beginning with Greg Jasperse‘s arrangement of John Lennon and Paul McCartney’s “In My Life,” a tune that most of us gray-haired listeners played back through our memory banks. Caryl Price and Adam Dengler were featured soloists for Carole King’s “You’ve Got a Friend” and Paul Simon’s “Bridge Over Troubled Water.” They both have lovely voices and they sang well together. Dale Bailey joined Adam Dengler for a rousing “Loves Me Like a Rock” (Simon/Gilpin). The audience rose to their feet; the chorus replied with the coda from “Bridge Over Troubled Water,” the perfect closing. Feeling light and with a song in my heart, I left with a wide grin on my face.

There were additional fine musicians who assisted: Robbie Link (acoustic and electric bass), Jackson Valentine (percussion), Darin Knapp (alto sax) and Linda Sauter Velto (piano).