May 15, 2005

Saturday night at the Orpheum

Over Spring break this year, the Knox College Choir, the Sandburg College Choir, and the Galesburg Community Choir went on tour to perform at Carnegie Hall. Tonight they reprised that performance at the Orpheum. When I got there the first floor was relatively full, but after I found a seat I noticed people up in the balcony, so I went up there. The seats themselves are much better, the sound is better, and the view is much better.

The pieces being performed were Francis Poulenc's Gloria and Ralph Vaughan Williams' Dona Nobis Pacem. Aside from some bobbles when they first started, the orchestra sounded great, and the 130-voice combined choir sounded fantastic, except when they were interrupted by the soloist's yawling.

I suppose that's a slightly unfair characterisation. Within the genre of operatic soprano, she was fine, I guess; Laura Lane certainly seemed happy with her performance after the show. And when she was singing fairly quietly, she sounded okay, if not fantastic. But when her volume was anywhere north of mezzo-piano, the quality of her voice was such that it seemed as if she were trying very hard to swallow her own tongue. It's not a pretty sound, and it does nothing for the enunciation, either. Why do people actually like this sound? I feel a little bad panning her performance so badly, because it's clear she's worked very hard to achieve that style, and she's really succeeded. But, egh.

But the choir itself (and, for that matter, the baritone soloist) sounded great. The Gloria had two sections that sounded like they were pulled right out of a Broadway musical, but other than that they were your basic big choral works. The chorus sang them as if they were easy, well-blended and not fighting the orchestra for attention. I wonder how much more I would have liked it if they had just had a woman with a normal voice singing the solo....

"The trouble with eating Italian food is that five or six days later you're hungry again." --George Miller

Posted by blahedo at 2:45am on 15 May 2005
Everybody is entitled to their opinion but as a performer from that very concert I feel that your comment about the soprano soloist comes out of ignorance. It's one thing if you don't like the soprano sound in general but to degrade someone's performance based on that is wrong. Both of the soloist did top-notch performances. Posted by unknown at 3:35pm on 23 May 2005

"Ignorance" doesn't seem to really be the word you're looking for here; I think you're just accusing me of being unrefined. Which is fair, I suppose, if one defines a refined ear as "enjoying opera". I'm quite aware of the style, and as I pointed out, the soprano soloist was an excellent example of the genre.

But I don't like that sound, and I didn't like the sound of those parts of the performance. In keeping with a main mission of this blog---giving me practice articulating the reasons why I like or dislike things---I posted about it. Anyone's free to disagree with me; God knows I've never claimed to be an actual authority on music, art, theatre, or most of the other things I review here (linguistics excepted).

Posted by blahedo at 11:39pm on 23 May 2005
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