The 30th Season of Bel Canto Company concluded at Christ United Methodist Church with an impressive display of works written by composers living in the north-central region of NC, or Triad. Works by Eddie Bass, Dan Locklair, Jack Jarrett, Ted Hunter, and Bel Canto members Bill Snedden and Kevin Uppercue (all of whom were in attendance) provided a wonderful tribute to great local talent and creativity. Some of the works have been performed previously by the BCC thus disproving the old dictum: “What’s harder than getting a new work performed? Getting it performed again.”
The evening began with two pieces from Locklair’s philosophical changing perceptions; effectively accompanying the BCC was violin, viola, cello and piano. “What Do We Know About Life” was an ethereal and poignant setting of a short text by Carol Adler. The men and women were featured in effective imitative lines. “High Flight,” on a text by John Gillespie Magee, Jr., was a somewhat dancy 6/8 that occasionally slipped into 3/4.
Artistic Director Welborn E. Young’s sensitive and fluid style brought forth great beauty in these works and throughout the evening. The choir displayed terrific diction and wonderful intonation in a choral blend that is warm and engaging.
Snedden’s haunting In Flanders Fields, also accompanied by a small group of instruments, made good use of passages of a cappella singing that intermingled with accompaniment. Uppercue’s Psalm 25 was an unaccompanied and uplifting setting of the text in English.
BCC Assistant Conductor Liz Doebler continued the wonderful music making, leading the choir in two of Jarrett’s Five Appalachian Folk Songs, accompanied by piano. “He’s Gone Away” is a gentle and yearning love song while “The Honest Miller” a jovial up-tempo romp. Each verse of the latter ends with a fun “tra-la-la,” and the men of the ensemble depict the miller’s three sons, as he tries to decide to whom he should give the mill at his death. Young returned to the podium to conduct the tender “Shenandoah” arranged by James Erb. The four verses utilize different timbre possibilities of the choir—the opening verse sung unison by the women, the second by the men, for example. Young crafted the long flexible lines, allowing the ensemble to display its signature warmth and musicality.
The first half of the concert closed with a heart-felt rendering of “O My Luve’s Like a Red, Red Rose” set by René Clausen with a piano trio accompaniment.
Opening the second half was Eddie Bass’s Greensboro: A Bicentennial Cantata, commissioned as part of the city’s bicentennial celebration. The set of poems was written by Greensboro poet Fred Chappell and depicts four of Greensboro’s parks. The work is accompanied by chamber orchestra. The opening “Aubade” is a jaunty, somewhat conversational depiction of the downtown City Park. Men and women gossip on the street in the morning as the city begins to wake up. The music includes some fun and effective word painting. “Anthem” solemnly recalls the next to last battle of the Revolutionary War that took place in Battleground Park.
“Children’s Games” contains a trio of poems: “Hopscotch,” “Jump Rope,” and “Hide and Seek,” each effectively portraying the activity at hand. The first features scurrying music that catches the action of the game and the nearby stream. “Jump Rope” makes fun use of children’s songs as different individuals enter the game. The third section features a soprano removed from the choir intoning “olly olly in free.”
“Double Wedding” takes place in Bicentennial Park and contains a Processional, Ceremony, and Recessional. The text contains both English and Spanish, giving a nod to Greensboro’s Hispanic population. The 25-minute cantata closed with a recurrence of the dotted rhythm with which it began. This is a delightful, well-constructed work—colorful, with many moods and characters. The references to local landmarks make it particularly attractive to Triad audiences, but the work contains broader messages that would make it attractive on any choral program, regional or otherwise.
Nine members of the ensemble served as the able soloists in the course of the work. Instrumentalists for the entire evening were Amanda Mitchell (flute), Ashley Barrett (oboe), Matt Libera (clarinet), Naiara Sánchez (violin), Cathryn Middel (viola), Roman Placzek (cello), Alex Kluttz (percussion) and BCC accompanist Karen Beres (piano).
Young honored six choristers who had sung with the ensemble for more than 20 of the 30 years of the BCC’s existence: Stephanie Bartis, Diane Hahn Black, Tandy Brown, Richard Lowder, Bill Snedden, and Gerald Whittington.
The evening concluded with two animated spirituals. Ted Hunter’s “ I've Got A Home In That Rock” got the ensemble rocking, and Moses Hogan’s “Ev’ry Time I Feel the Spirit” with soprano Hilary Webb wailing the solo part brought the appreciative audience to its feet.
This program will be repeated April 29. For details, see the sidebar.