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A surprising delight at Chorus and Chamber Choir concert

By Christa Caggiano

Section: Arts, Featured

March 14, 2014

Between a cappella concerts, open mic nights and the one kid from your dorm who can do a less than stellar rendition of “Wonderwall,” Brandeis bombards you with vocal music. The Brandeis University Chorus and Chamber Choir concert showcased trained musicians. They were well-rehearsed, and would definitely be able to do an above average version of “Wonderwall.”

The Chamber Choir began the concert. It is composed of alto and soprano voices, giving it a unique vocal quality and an interesting balance, firmly skewed to the treble. Their first song cycle was a selection of Béla Bartók pieces. These were mostly performed a cappella, but in a much more classical style than modern a cappella. These pieces were short, just the right length to keep the audience interested. The chamber choir sung them with good balance, and very in tune. At times, particularly in “Choosing a Girl,” their second song, the words were lost. Overall, I felt this was an insignificant detail, as the pieces seemed more about the auditory experience than the actual words.

The next two songs were from the French canon. First was Gabriel Fauré’s “Le Ruisseau.” It is a phenomenally beautiful piece, largely well performed. My biggest complaint was that the choir was a little shrill in their high notes. Tamar Forman-Gejrot ’16, however, was exceptional and balanced out moments of shrillness in the choir with her charismatic solo. Her voice is well suited to French music, and had a deep sort of resonance, that really hit the back of the hall—quite a feat in Slosberg. The choir equally executed Claude Debussy’s “Salut Printemps.” It was slightly harder to make out the words, but again, despite the fact that a translation was provided, I did not seem to care about the words. By the number of audience members using their translation sheet, I felt that many people shared my sentiment. Perhaps more importantly, the French was pronounced accurately and sounded authentic, a testament to how well trained this choir is. Adina Shapiro ’15 soloed on this song. It is notable how beautifully she hit her high notes; she obviously spent a great deal of time working on this solo and crafting a beautiful shape to her line.

The Chamber Choir ended with Stravinsky’s “Four Russian Peasant Songs.” These sounded medieval, reminiscent of a madrigal, which was interesting given that the concert was billed as “Masterpieces of the 20th Century.” It was harder for the choir to interest me with this cycle, as there was not much room for harmonic or expressive change in the four short songs. Victoria Dieck ’17, who soloed on two of the four songs, brought a very intriguing presence to this set. Her voice would be well suited to pop music and was very different from the style of the cycle. Nevertheless, it made for an interesting thesis and a blending of talents. Their set was performed with remarkable precocity.

Following the Chamber Choir was the University Chorus, a large ensemble. At first, I had remarked on how full Slosberg was, but I only realized that it was because the entire chorus filled the hall. This ensemble was composed of male and female voices, which was a welcome change of pace. It made for an interesting set, Fauré’s celebrated “Requiem.” There was great dynamic range, which is difficult to achieve no matter the instrument. The chorus has a decent tone. I wished that they would have been more resonant, but this was not a major impediment to me enjoying this performance.

All three soloists in this ensemble were very talented. Charlie Madison ’15, the soloist on the Offertoire, had a beautiful voice, so I wish the pianist would have been softer in dynamic, because Madison was slightly obscured. Tabitha Rohrer, who soloed on the “Pie Jesu,” was confident, a trait I think all the performers need in this concert. A confident performer such as Rohrer makes the performance much more enjoyable for the audience. Jason Tang ’14, the last soloist on the Libera me movement, was amazing. He had a great intensity with excellent phrasing and stellar emotional appeal. Overall, I was very impressed with the chorus. I had no idea we had such talented vocalists on this campus, although I should not have been surprised given the incredible range of talents at Brandeis. I highly recommend going to a music department concert or two during your tenure at Brandeis to discover this for yourself.

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