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With minor exceptions, the secular portion of the Meredith College “Spring Tour 2008” concert consisted of light fare. The opening sacred portion was made of sterner stuff. Lisa Fredenburgh furnished expressive and energetic leadership for the twenty-plus members of the Meredith College Chorale. This program, moved to Carswell Concert Hall due to power problems in the Chapel, served as prelude to the group’s annual spring tour.
Spaced along the two aisles of the auditorium for the opener, the singers led off with “Spaseniye Sodelal” from the early twentieth century by the Russian composer Pavel Chesnokov (often written Tchesnokoff). Better known as “Salvation is created,” the piece was effectively and movingly rendered in its traditional solemn fashion.
Possibly the main sacred offering of the evening was Schubert’s “Gott ist mein Hirt” (The Lord is my Shepherd), in which the distinctive sounds and spirit of that composer were preserved. Along with the excellent work of the singers, the contribution of accompanist Frank Pittman here should be noted. His piano lent the anthem its “lieder” flavor, reminding the hearer throughout of its true Schubertian character.
The substantial aspects of the secular section of the program were largely contained in the piece, “Les sirènes” by Lili Boulanger (younger sister of the better-known Nadia). In this dreamy piece, one is quite captivated by these “trembling flowers of the sea-foam and the mist.” The irresistible sirens of the song are “the immortal sisters offered to the desires of your earthly hearts.” Here again the piano was invaluable as it powerfully assisted in maintaining the Debussy-like mood of the work.
Seven of the Chorale members call themselves Encore, a group furnishing the informal break in the proceedings. They offered a stylized and jumpy rendition of “The Shadow of Your Smile.” They got their kicks on “Route 66” with Pittman’s jazz piano pounding away as an equal partner.
Sopranos Kathryn Godwin and Louisa Monroe showed bright promise as soloists in two of the numbers. Director Fredenburgh’s informative and witty banter to the audience could be enhanced with more careful enunciation. Some of her better lines tend to be muffled in sotto voce trail-offs.
The talented group sang in several different languages — one with African/Latin rhythms, one with clapping, foot work, spoken passages, and oohing and aahing. They told of Maria Pancha and of the tribulations of a baker from Andagoya. This would never be dismissed as yet another slice-of-life concert. The audiences on the spring tour will find much to marvel at and enjoy as the Chorale & Encore represent Meredith in high style.