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The Meredith College Department of Music called it “The Meredith Spring Choral Concert.” And that’s exactly what it was, but with a twist. Offering powerful assistance were “The Singing Statesmen” from nearby North Carolina State University. The three “host” ensembles, along with their guests, performed a total of some twenty choice choral works in Jones Chapel on the Meredith Campus.
Conductor Jim Smith and “The Meredith Chorus” opened the proceedings. Their most satisfying work came with the heart-rending “He’s Gone Away,” an American folk song arranged by Charles Wagner. With Virginia Vance accompanying, the singers lent genuine appeal conveying the heartbreak of departure while injecting the hope that he’ll be “coming back if he goes ten thousand miles.” The group “Encore!” is a small a cappella ensemble prepared by conductor Tricia Strong. These singers excelled in the requisite discipline that their informal pieces demanded. They offered a bit of choreography in “True Colors.” They lamented that I “Let Myself Fall” in love with you, but now I’ll love you for “A Thousand Years.” These latter two numbers were arranged by student Jennifer Shore, a member of “The Meredith Chorale.”
And speaking of the Chorale, Music Department Head and conductor Fran Page brought on this quality group, leading with “Sing Unto the Lord a New Song,” a modern and joyous anthem by Paul Basler (let everything that hath breath praise the Lord). Again the piano of Virginia Vance was integral to the overall effect. The sopranos shone brightly as the unaccompanied singers negotiated “Salmo 150” by Ernani Aguilar (sung without score, always an enhancement). They took Jimmy McHugh’s timeless “Sunny Side of the Street” all the way out into the obviously appreciative audience.
As was the case ten days ago at Holy Trinity Church, conductor Nathan Leaf introduced the visiting NC State singers with the masterly “Homeland.” Let the reviewer’s comments on that occasion equally well apply here. "Though the piece was credited to J. Randall Stroope, it was readily recognizable as an arrangement from the 'Jupiter' section of The Planets by Holst. With significant support from accompanist John Noel, the group produced a fine reading of this super-fine choral work. …'I vow to you, my country … the service of my love.' The ending couplet implores, 'My homeland be my dreams, my hope. Homeland, homeland! Home.'” The singers eventually proved to be real showmen in "Kiss the Girl,” finally deploring the fact that “There Is Nothin’ Like a Dame.”
This choral omnibus reached its apogee with numbers by the huge massed choir of all previous participants, conductors taking their turns as mere performers. Leaf led the great Mozart motet, “Ave verum corpus” (Hail, true body). The ad hoc forces did a pleasingly charming job on this familiar old standby, tempting some in the audience (well, at least one) to sing along. Directing the equally elegant, if less familiar, Kyrie in D minor of Mozart, Page elicited the exquisite emotion called for here. Her aforementioned sopranos again floated above the fray here and in the later “Deep River” spiritual of Roy Ringwald. Smith returned for a vigorous rendition of the Shaker text and tune “Followers of the Lamb.” (O brothers, sisters ain’t you happy…) Part of the allure here could be attributed to the heretofore-unrevealed talents of percussionist Fran Page on the tambourine.
The enthusiasm of the audience suggested that the evening was an unqualified success. Many thanks to hosts, guests and their leaders who made it all come to fruition.