Boar’s head and bells

School of Arts caps strong semester of performances with holiday concert

Chico State Gospel Choir

Chico State Gospel Choir

Photo By Tom Angel

Glorious Sounds of the Season Harlen Adams Theatre Dec. 10-12

I think my favorite moment from Chico State’s totally enjoyable, season-ending Glorious Sounds of the Season concert was the swinging “Ride On, King Jesus,” belted out by Chico State’s Gospel Choir, which suddenly appeared out of nowhere, as Sounds of the Season‘s groups do, to the audience’s right. There was a raw, semi-anarchic quality to the choir’s singing that seemed especially fresh and committed.

But in truth it would be hard to fault any of this delightful seasonal show and the tremendous end-of-semester work that went into orchestrating nearly 20 different groups into a polished performance that constantly surprised. Kudos to organizer Jeff Gemmell and his helpers, who not only put the show together, but also managed to squeeze 27 performances and eight audience-sing-alongs into less than 90 minutes. Things did zip along.

The concert was full of little surprises, such as the dropped movie screen showing organist David Rothe at the backstage Centennial Organ, the black boar’s head that appeared (along with a soloist) at the control room windows high up on the hall’s rear wall to help sing “The Boar’s Head Carol,” the faculty set of crumhorn carols (which sounded rather like a herd of slightly crazed kazoos), and English Department Chairman Lynn Elliott’s humorous, hand-puppet-assisted tale of a child managing to trick his father into buying him a guinea pig for Christmas.

I was also somewhat taken by guitarist Warren Haskell and trombonist Lloyd Roby’s unlikely combining on “Christmas Time Is Here,” the Low Brass Choir’s rollicking “Hava Nagila,” the A Capella Choir’s “Tomorrow Shall Be my Dancing Day,” and, for some unknown reason, the ear-splitting trumpets of Rocky and Rick Winslow in the Faculty Jazz Ensemble’s take on several Christmas tunes. My only regret was the absence of some of the wonderful Eastern European, Latin American and African tunes that have graced holiday season concerts of the past.

For choral groups especially, this concert marked the end of a highly impressive semester.

With an emphasis on the “highly impressive,” I must mention two other events of this past fall. First was the various university choruses’ “War and Peace” concert of several weeks ago, with its exquisite performances of historical songs, Bernstein’s Chichester Psalms and numerous other works. It was one of the most emotionally rich choral concerts of recent memory.

And second would be the absolutely delightful (and playful) production of Purcell’s hour-long opera, Dido and Aeneas. Baroque? Opera? Who’d have thought it could be such a treat? However, directed by Daun Hayes (assisted by Choral Director Gemmell), cleverly and audience-engagingly staged, and with a variety of roles supremely appropriate to the singers who sang them, Dido was a breath of fresh air, a marvel. Go, Opera!

And then, finally, I must mention the sad death of former, world-renowned political-science professor Earl Krushke, who, with his wife Marilyn, gave most generously to various CSU, Chico musical programs and scholarships. A great man and musical friend—in times when "state-supported" music needs as many friends as it can garner.