Choral Music Review Print



"Songs of Love, God, and Nature" at NCSU

April 3, 2002 - Raleigh, NC:


The title of this review is is the connecting theme found by conductor Randall A. Meder for the April 3 recital in Stewart Theater of the NCSU Concert Choir. The program of 13 songs was broken up into four sets lasting only about 45 minutes. This reviewer wanted more.

The first group consisted of Giovanni Gastoldi's madrigal "Amor Vittorioso," Tallis' anthem "If Ye Love Me," Purcell's song "In these Delightful, Pleasant Groves," and Schütz' motet "Also hat Gott die Welt geliebt." The Tallis and Purcell are settings of Biblical texts from John 14:15-16 and John 3:16 respectively. The second set was a pair of Mendelssohn partsongs, "Die Nachtigall" and "Jagdlied," and the third, a group of four folk or folk-inspired songs: "Vaughan Williams' "The Turtle Dove," "Warlock's "Yarmouth Fair," "Gamelan," by contemporary Canadian composer Murray Schafer (b.1933), and "Mata del Anima Sola" by Antonio Estévez (1916-88). The closing set was a group of African-American spirituals: "I'm Gonna Sing 'Til the Spirit Moves In My Heart" and "Old Time Religion," arranged by Moses Hogan, and "Ain'-a That Good News" set by William Dawson (director of the world-famous Tuskegee Choir from 1931 to 1956).

Thus, in this brief performance, the group sang in four languages: English, German, Italian, and Spanish-of the major languages with significant choral literature, only French was missing!-and presented music in styles ranging Renaissance polyphony to modern vocalic imitation of musical instruments, heard in the Schafer and Estévez pieces. "Gamelan" was especially interesting, and no doubt difficult to pull off, since it is built on only the five tones in the pentatonic scale represented by the onomatopoeic words dong, deng, dung, dang and ding, intended to simulate the sounds of Javanese instruments. The entire performance was competent and delightful. Diction was good and enunciation clear throughout the evening. Three members of the choir were given a chance to shine as soloists-tenor Mark Hines in the Vaughan Williams, tenor Ed Corey in the Estévez, and alto Megan McNulty in "Old Time Religion"-and all acquitted themselves very well. The loveliest of the numbers for my ears, in addition to the aforementioned "Gamelan," were the Gastoldi, Mendelssohn's "Jagdlied," the Vaughan Williams, and "Old Time Religion."

Meder's program notes, uncredited in print (but he owned up to them in oral comments!), were excellent: succinct and meaty. Texts and translations were given for all songs not in English, but the house lights were too low (Meder's request to raise them was ultimately ignored) for them to be of any use. Let's get this remedied next time! It was refreshing to see all the singers listed with their academic years, majors, and hometowns given. While some might find this practice "small town-ish," it must be remembered that none of these musicians are music majors, yet they made it obvious that music is an important part of their academic lives. Meder did an exemplary job of putting together a varied program that exposed them to a fine cross-section of the choral literature and gave them a good chance to display their talents: something they can remember 50 years hence.

Meder, a first-time father (on March 23), is nearing the end of his first year in this position, and we hope, if this concert is a representative sample of his abilities, that he stays for a good long time. His credentials are as sterling as was this show, which clearly gave the all-too-sparse audience, seemingly made up primarily of classmates and friends, and parents and grandparents of the singers, a great deal of aural pleasure. Raleigh music lovers who haven't yet caught on to the superb performances at bargain-basement prices of NCSU's various groups will hopefully soon realize what they are missing and begin supporting the wonderful efforts-both programming and performance-of this department in greater numbers. Like themselves, these musicians will make their livings in other fields of endeavor, but music is likely to remain as significant a part of their lives as it is for us; they deserve our wholehearted support and encouragement.