Saturday, December 15, 2012

Saginaw Choral Society concert soothed the pain of audience members

review and photoby Janet I. Martineau

It was inevitable, could even feel the tension...

....Mentioning the Connecticut school massacre at the Saginaw Choral Society’s “A World of Carols 2” concert Saturday afternoon at the Temple Theatre.

And it so it was artistic director/conductor Glen Thomas Rideout almost immediately offered a few soft spoken, halting, comforting words that addressed not only Connecticut but also the deaths of young people closer to home; the complexities of our world today. They were not overt; rather somewhat veiled. But there was no doubt.

He would revisit the issue again when, after the performance of “We are....(One),” he asked for 28 seconds of silence -- one for each of the victims, as well as the killer in what was a gutsy but healing move.

And then, toward the end of the program, came the performance of an arrangement juxtaposing the 1600s hymn “Lo, How a Rose,” sung softly primarily by the women of the choir, with the 1979 pop tune “The Rose” sung solo by soprano Hayley Honsinger.

It was, of course, programmed and rehearsed long before the events of Dec. 14. But if ever a composition was more sorely needed on this day.....its words, its symbolism, its exquisite presentation, its brilliance of linking the two pieces.

At its conclusion the audience erupted in cheers and more than a few noses were heard blowing.

And at the end of the evening, Rideout again alluded to the painful place this nation finds itself in and spoke again in calming, halting words.

Talk about rising to the occasion, this young conductor, and starting the healing process, though music, on the huge holes in our hearts.

The evening was filled with musical magic -- Rideout’s powerful baritone involved in several of the works, his arrangement of “The Little Drummer Boy” giving pianist Carl Angelo some jazzy riffs as the accompanist, harpist Deborah Gabrion playing both softly and with intensity as one of but four instrumental accompanists used sparingly, and the trio of Cindy Humphreys, Betty Mayer and Mike Weiss (in particular Humphreys) soaring above the choir on “Ave Maria” by Franz Biebl.

Shakespeare was there -- providing the words for John Rutter’s “Blow, blow thou winter wind.” And performing Rachmaninoff’s “Bogoroditse Devo” and  two selections from Britten’s “A Ceremony of Carols” nearly nonstop created an intriguing  seamless flow of two very different works.

Humor played a role as well. The male vocal sextet Ah Tempo! quickly dispatched all  those “Twelve Days of Christmas” gifts in “The Twelve Days After Christmas,” in “Ding-a Ding-a Ding” the choir made like tricky bells accompanied by mugging from Rideout, and the whole placed moved and grooved with the South African folk song “Babethandaza.”

“Twelve Days After,” by the way, was performed right after the tear-inspiring “Rose” piece in a deliberate yanking of emotional chains!

The second half found Rideout also sporting red pants, which fit right in with the color scheme of the stage setting.

Beautiful and uplifting concert on one of the nation’s most painful days.

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