review by Janet I. Martineau
Cupcakes and bags of popcorn served in the Temple Theatre’s lobby sent Saginaw Choral Society patrons home well fed physically Saturday night following the “Party Time” concert.
But the real dessert of the night was the music, led by conductor Glen Thomas Rideout in his official debut as the 16th leader of the 75-year-old community chorus. It fed the soul to its very depths.
Rideout was all over the musical map in his programming -- Bernstein, Copland and Brahms from the more classical vein, Sondheim and Rodgers from musical theater, Robert Frost poetry set to music and “Cindy” from the popular music field, a touch of gospel and a bit of John Rutter, a Russian folk song with accompaniment by dust broom and a percussive Ecuadorian piece.
What a delight, and so beautifully performed by the Saginaw Choral Society members who were dressed in spring pastel colors. It is perhaps too soon to totally judge Rideout, but in his “audition” concert and now this one as his first after being hired, it appears he is taking this chorus to a new level of showmanship and variety as well as excellence. “Party Time” may sound frivolous as as a theme, but its challenging music was anything but and was performed nearly flawlessly.
To single out a favorite during the evening is futile, but two back-to-back renderings were particularly noteworthy -- Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah” followed by Bernstein’s “Somewhere” from “West Side Story.” Both were exquisite, softly and delicately performed with Carl Angelo’s piano work on Bernstein magnificent.
“Our Own Song” found the choir lined up along the outside aisles and across the front of the stage, engaging the audience in rhythmic hand-clapping. The sextet Ah Tempo! dazzled one and all with its “Heaven Somewhere” a cappella fireworks. And Rideout had the singers clapping and stomping during “Cindy.”
Speaking of Rideout. He is also a formidable singer, as he proved in his earlier “audition” concert. And on this May night, with his mother and sister in the audience, he raised goosebumps not once but twice with solo pieces.
“Simple Song,” from Bernstein’s Mass, came first, with Rideout singing a portion of it with his hands in his pocket. And then came “Deep River,” a spiritual of African American origin -- his huge voice filling the Temple Theatre with emotion, perfect diction and a clarity of voice.
Without putting too fine a point on it, there is no denying that Rideout, of African American heritage himself and still in his 20s, will put a new and welcome imprint on what is, at this point, a primarily white choir much older than he. This program proved it, and the selection of material he chose also proved it.
He also is a joy to watch conduct, his movements so balletic and fluid.
“Party Time” was a great time.