Saturday, November 12, 2011

Glen Thomas Rideout delivers three new surprises during Concerts at First Presbyterian

review by Janet I. Martineau
OK, so we knew he could sing, the new Saginaw Choral Society artistic director/conductor Glen Thomas Rideout. With a gorgeous baritone voice.
And that he has a definite flair for programming clever and thoughtful programs.
On Friday night, at a Concerts at First Presbyterian Saginaw concert, we learned three other tidbits -- he arranges familiar songs like “Misty” into something fresh, is graceful at the piano keyboard in playing them ....and is quite the humorous actor. Or, as m.c. Greg Largent put it, “he sings in Technicolor.”
All this combined in around 90 minutes.
In the first half, classical and sung in foreign languages, Rideout took us from a sweet lovestruck teen-ager in love with a mill maid (playing both parts) to a drunken, aging Don Quixote too long in the bar. 
And yes, while the baritone was rich and the words enunciated sharply and crisply, it was the body English that sold the songs by Schubert and Brahms. Not overstated, mind you, but just enough to bring alive words we could not translate. 
Just before he got drunk too, Don Quixote sang a prayer to St. Michael that was quite solemn -- and lovely.
In between was a trio of nature-driven songs, by Brahms and Schubert, about a nightingale singing, about looking over the treetops and an earth at rest, and about resting on the grass and  looking at the brilliant blue sky -- delivered with all the tranquility that implies, with minimal body English.
After intermission (and a change of outfits from formal to more casual) Rideout delved into, in honor of Veteran’s Day he said, contemporary music composed by Americans.
That is where “Misty,” by Erroll Garner, came into play as Rideout took to the piano for his own jazzy arrangement of the classic, and well into it sang it as well. OK, next time Concerts at First Presbyterian books him, demand a piano concert please.
This set also included John Musto’s “Litany” (text by Langston Hughes) with Rideout looking upward in awe as, he said, the singer saw the Statue of Liberty for the first time.
And the totally animated closer was Paul Bowles’ ragtime driven “Sugar in the Cane,” with goofy text by Tennessee Williams, of all people.
Accompanying Rideout was Allison Halerz (except for his “Misty” solo of course). She also showcased her solid talent with solos on two Debussy pieces in the fist half and Gershwin’s “I Got Rhythm” in the second.
Ah yes, this evening was nourishment for the soul.

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