Choral Music Review Print



Peace College Chamber Singers

April 18, 2007 - Raleigh, NC:


Was there ever a more eclectic presentation than that   offered by the Peace College Department of Music? Featuring the Peace Chamber Singers and Choir, augmented by the Grains of Time from N.C. State University, it covered the spectrum from Missa Brevis and "Lux Aeterna" to variations on doo-wop themes.

Actually it was a brilliant program, enthusiastically embraced by the sizable audience.  The law of unintended consequences was invoked early on. Tardiness by one of the musicians necessitated that section II precede section I, so the Chamber Singers led with “O Lord, increase my faith,” from the sixteenth century, by Orlando Gibbons. The nineteen singers, with director Jim Smith, then glided forward four hundred years to the Missa Brevis of Stephen Hatfield and “Ubi caritas” by Eleanor Daley. These pieces, all performed a cappella, were of surprisingly similar character. The gorgeous Daley work showed these attentive singers in their finest ensemble. Two pieces by the contemporary composer Randall Stroope closed the section. The director identified Stroope as seeming to specialize in works for treble voices. The treatment of Psalm 23 was possibly more elaborate than most of the audience had ever experienced. Virginia Vance provided supportive piano accompaniment in both works.

It could be plausibly argued that the program was strengthened by the later arrival of section I. Consisting of John Rutter’s Te Deum, it featured the combined choirs (Chamber Singers, Peace Choir, and Grains of Time) and piano, along with trumpets, trombones, tuba and percussion from the NC Symphony. Smith dedicated this selection to the memory of the victims of the carnage at Virginia Tech (April 16, 2007). He kept this huge offering under taut control, with the pleasing result one has come to expect from this composer. Had the much smaller group followed this performance they might have sounded a bit “thin,” despite the fact that their volume and tone were entirely appropriate to the character of the pieces.  (In a similar spirit, one would scarcely follow a symphony with a string quartet.)

The Grains of Time (nine born showmen) followed intermission introducing the abrupt change of program mood. They longed for "Just a Little Bit," and they celebrated "Under the Boardwalk," down by the sea. At times they appeared "In the House of the Rising Sun," ultimately deciding to "Swing Low" for the sweet chariot. All of the other singers then joined them for tuneful and sentimental renditions of "As Time Goes By" and "Unchained Melody." Thus ended two disparate programs in one. Both were met by vigorous approbation of the audience.