Sunday, January 30, 2011

Saginaw Choral Society concert offers some Jerry Lee Lewis fun

Review by Janet I. Martineau
Goodness! Who would expect witnessing a kick ass performance of the Jerry Lee Lewis classic “Great Balls of  Fire” at a Saginaw Choral Society Concert....
Complete with standing up and pounding the keyboard with such force the light/music stand bounced like a basketball.....
Performed by a member of the group (a soprano) who is of an age, ah, well, let’s just say she’s “up there.”
But that is what Jean Cole did Saturday afternoon at First Presbyterian Church in the second of two performances of the annual Members’ Recital.
You go girl! Just glad you did not try kicking a leg up on the piano as Jerry Lee did.
In its seventh year, this Member’ Recital event is my favorite choral society offering of the year -- always one of great fun to see what pieces of music a bunch of singers will choose, what kind of ensembles they will form, what instruments they will use other than their voices.
And then at its end they serve you a vast array of desserts they have made or purchased.
This year was exceptional (but, then, I say that every year).
Among the highlights, other than Cole:

-- Tenor Jim Smerdon’s emotional rendering of “Mama Look Sharp” from the musical “1776.” This is sung by a dying/dead soldier on the battlefield. Too often it is performed with too much gusto. Not with Smerdon. Its pain and fading light of life was apparent from start to finish and it was exquisitely beautiful.
-- The vocal trio of alto Carolyn Gaus and sopranos Hayley Honsinger and Nancy Stevenson singing “At the Ballet” from the musical “A Chorus Line” in a smart arrangement which allowed for their voices to ebb and flow in solos, duets and a trio. And like with Smerdon, sung with the sadness depicted in the words.
-- Tenor Bryan Latimer and soprano Darlene Mikoleizik in two duets, “Why We Sing” and  “I Believe,” with Latimer accompanying them on piano. PLEASE you two -- record a CD or create a concert. You are MAGIC together, a gorgeous melding of silky smooth voices which relaxes the very soul.
-- Jane Bellen on oboe and Deanna Popielarz on flute in “Dreamy Duo,” an intriguing give and take between the two instruments.
-- Bass Matt Zielke in “Pierrot’s Dance Song,” a lovely turn at art song/opera sung with a wonderful sense of security and strength.
-- And move over Ah Tempo!,” the choral society’s superb men’s sextet that formed a year or so ago and has developed a strong following. You have a little competition from the quartet of men which formed to sing a rousing Gaither gospel number, “My Lord and I.”
Tenor David Hammond, bass Tim Hastings, bass Jim Hemeyer and tenor Stan Teliczan rocked the joint with it. I want more from you guys!
There were 20 acts in all in the 90-minute program, and this review mentions only a half dozen. On another day another six might rise to the mention, because all 20 were excellent in their selection and musicianship.
It there was a sour note -- and it is a rather large one -- it is the decision to “mess” with the format of the first six years. As it was designed originally, the acts were distributed all over the performance space -- front, back, sides, balcony, down the isle. Which resulted in a fun surround sound concept. And it was performed non-stop -- no interruption for applause in between numbers, which allowed the thing to built into a musical monument.
For some reason, this year all the acts were up front and there was a pause and applause between each of them, resulting in a loss of some of the magic.

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