Catching up from the weekend:
When I listen to the Fresno Community Chorus, I often think of the raw, primeval, guts-and-all, human power of choral music. Sure, our ingenious brains have made possible the creation of musical instruments of all shapes and styles. Those instruments add immeasurably to our lives. But the voice came first. It remains special in terms of emotional connection.
I was reminded of this at the chorus’ spring concert on Sunday, which featured three of its illustrious ensembles — the Master Chorale, Coro Piccolo and a new group, Quintus — at Shaghoian Hall, along with a fine orchestra, all under the nuanced baton of Anna Hamre. Four pieces by Leonard Bernstein, in honor of the 100th anniversary of his birth, were performed. In keeping with that “birthday” theme, several other celebratory pieces by other composers joined the program as well. Here are a few of my thoughts:
Festive air: The opening piece, Henry Purcell’s “Come ye Sons of Art,” had a bright and chipper air, especially the rousing final movement, “See Nature Rejoicing.” Purcell wrote the piece in 1694 in honor of Queen Mary’s birthday. (And what a gift. It certainly lasted a lot longer than a new taffeta gown or a balloon bouquet.) This could have just been an overly mechanical, anachronistic exercise, but Hamre and her singers brought a warmth and spontaneity to the piece that gave it a special zest. As I listened, I could imagine the queen sitting there in a festive tent, colorful pennants fluttering in the breeze, everyone wearing lots of wool (ah, how that must have smelled when it got wet), as she presided over an intimate lunch for, say, a few hundred of her closest friends.
Five guys singing: Quintus is the chorus’ male quintet, featuring Aaron Burdick, Thomas Hayes, Joe Camaquin Vigil, Nick Olsen and Riley Garcia. Their voices blended beautifully on Bernstein’s “One Hand, One Heart” and “Pirate Song.” Still, there was a bit of a tentative feel to their performance, almost a sluggishness to the beat (especially on “One Hand”), as if they need a little more confidence singing together.