Saturday, October 27, 2012

Saginaw Choral Society's "Shades of Blue" a red hot night

The Saginaw Choral Society "Shades of Blue" concert

review and photos by Janet I. Martineau

Who knew blue could shine so bright.

It sure did so on Saturday night at the Temple Theatre when the Saginaw Choral Society kicked off its 2012-2013 season with a concert titled “Shades of Blue.”

All but two of its 16 selections dealt in some manner with blue -- from Claude Debussy’s submerged-in-water Brittany castle in “La cathedrale engloutie” to Dolly Parton’s “Light of a Clear Blue Morning,” from Aaron Copland’s “At the River” to Irving Berlin’s  classic “Blue Skies.”

Enjoying a blue martini
We’ve said it before and will probably say it until we are blue in face -- director/conductor Glen Thomas Rideout, in his second season now, sure knows how to program with class, creativity and, well, color. In two hours he and his singers served up Cuban folk music, American pop, jazz, blues, bluegrass, classical, spiritual and British poetry set to music.

Woven into  the piece  “Breaths,” the singers and audience joined forces to create the sounds of a gentle rain turned to thunderstorm, after the maestro  himself started it off with some wordless sound impressions. And the song itself, the rhythmic  music by composer  Ysaye M. Barwell of Sweet Honey in the Rock blended with a nature/ancestors poem that is poignant, was flawlessly sung by the chorale.

Saginaw composer/pianist Mike Brush premiered a new piece titled “Blue,” with bass David Brown languidly easing through its lyrics with Brush at the keyboard. 

Soprano Cindy Humphrey’s voice rose above the rest of the singers and then just hung there magically in the opening piece, “Charles Villiers Stanford’s “The Blue Bird.”

The entire choral society made like an orchestra in the vocalization of Dave Brubeck’s “Blue Rondo a la Turk.”

Soprano Shannon Morse evoked goosebumps with her strong and crystal clear delivery on the Parton piece.

Moses Hogan’s “Wade in the Water” featured two altos and two sopranos sharing its lyrics with the rest of the singers as a backdrop.

And pianist  Carl Angelo delighted in the long center section solo in the Debussy work, with the singers joining in at both ends.
A concert patron with a flare

Delightfully,  the entire firsr half of the program was performed non-stop -- meaning no applause interruption between songs. Talk about building a mood.

The two non-blue pieces?

One was by Brush -- a new piece titled “U,” which features 50 words with the letter u in them, sung exquisitely, as usual, by Julie Mulady. It may just be Brush’s best song ever in terms of lyrics. Poetic, sentimental, thoughful.

And the evening closer was the raucous “Bile Them Cabbage Down” -- about as far from a Debussy as one can get, but a piece one which we suspect Copland might have liked.

The stage setting was bathed in blue. Pre-concert festivities featured Blue Moon beer, blue martinis, blue corn chips and 14 blue-hued piece of art by nine artists.

Yep, this evening left us anything but blue.


  1. The Saginaw Choral Society is adept at not only presenting quality vocal performances, but weaving an entire event around it. Always a surprise, always a delight.

  2. It was an incredible night. Blue Rondo with straight blues and back was stunning.