That’s the spirit
Chico State’s Glorious Sounds of the Season enjoys three sellout nights
Chico State’s Glorious Sounds of the Season concerts are always fun—especially because the music is so varied and the timing so efficiently handled (no applause allowed until the program’s end) that there is hardly a dull moment.
This year’s edition (this last weekend at the Harlen Adams Theater) was no exception. Program Director Jeffrey Gemmell once again called together six choirs, four instrumental groups, three smaller vocal ensembles, two pianists, two sopranos, one organist, one guitarist—and there must have been a pear-tree partridge in there somewhere too.
The concert is both a celebration (hard but enjoyable work for many, so that many others can take a break from an always-hurried season) and also a high-powered Music Department fundraiser. As the latter, it was a clear success, attracting three near-sellout audiences willing to pay $20 apiece to enjoy the show and add something to a fund for music scholarships.
Essentially the various performances were set against the solid background of the Choral Union/University Chorus and the Chico Wind Ensemble, directed (mostly) by Royce Tevis. Most memorable, however, were the more individualized performances that sprinkled spice onto the concert’s essential Christmas pudding.
These include the happy little rhythmic bit played by David Rothe on the university’s baroque organ in a Domenico Zipoli toccata, the Chico Children’s Choir singing Ebel-Sabo’s “Blustery Day” (with its word-reflecting rhythmic pulsations), and the same choir’s sweetly simple, two-part rendition of the Spanish “Fum, Fum, Fum,” which brought a kind of calming air to the hitherto exuberant concert.
I was also caught (I always am) by the Wind Ensemble’s Glenn Miller-ish swing to Leroy Anderson’s “Sleigh Ride” and by the close harmonies of the Vocal Jazz Choir’s rendition of Dave Brubeck’s Christmas-rush-inspired “Blue Rondo à la Christmas.” These were followed by pianist John Milbauer, who repeated (from the George Crumb concert of a couple of weeks ago) Crumb’s delicious “Canticle of the Holy Night,” a work interwoven with bits of “The Coventry Carol” and played as much on plucked piano strings as on the ivories themselves.
I also enjoyed Daun Hayes’ performance of Hildegaard von Bingen’s “O Virga ac Diadema,” a hauntingly lovely work that must surely have influenced Orff’s Carmina Burana, as well as the Low Brass Choir’s oompah-ing its way through “Hava Nagila” and the Chris Wenger/ Karl Iverson/Nathaniel Harnack/Nicholas King barbershop quartet, singing “We Three Kings” from the projection-booth window high above the auditorium’s last row.
Also impressive were the wonderful vigor of the Gospel Choir’s swinging version of “The Lord’s Prayer” and the engaging silliness of nine Music Department faculty performing (quite nicely) a couple of carols as a handbell choir.
Finally, there was a set of four-handed Nutcracker pieces played by pianists Milbauer and Robert Bowman, the Eastern-European-flavored “Sto Me E Milo” sung by a women’s quintet called Karamfil (Linda Anderson, Annemarie Boos, Karol Saritas, Lee Ann Shnayer and Jennifer Vinsky), the Choral Union’s rousing “Song of Galilee,” and Opera Director Ying Yeh’s bel-canto-styled “Rejoice Greatly,” from Handel’s Messiah.
No turkeys here; just an elusive partridge. And season’s greetings to all!