The William Jewell Concert Choir provided a pleasant alternative to the entertainment choices on a January weekend. Selections in Latin, German and English offered the choristers an opportunity to stretch their linguistic diction.
The Cantemus, by Lajos Bárdos (October 1, 1899 – November 18, 1986) displayed the choir's ability to perfect tuning in a very dissonant piece. The short acoustics of the worship area of Gloria Dei Lutheran Church failed to sustain the sound to accentuate the harmonic rhythmic of the piece; it would be nice to hear it again in a bouncy room.
Gabrieli, Giovanni (c. 1554/1557-1612) was represented by his motet, Beata es Virgo. Fitted with overlapping antiphonal lines, the piece provided the base to compare the modern, new consonance of the English section of the program. Giovanni's hymn to Mary was well-sung, with sturdy sound.
Felix Mendelssohn – Psalm 43, Op 78 No 2, Richte mich, Gott pitted declamatory homophony against operatic counterpoint that might have served as an example for Verdi. The choir maintained intensity through both textures.
Grayston (Bill) Ives' (b.1949) Magnificat and Nunc Dimittis were sung in English, sequentially as a single piece. Ives' writing demonstrates modern English composers' penchant for space-filling sound in the modern idiom of a newly created atonal consonance. The ear-piercing unmitigated dissonances molded into a pleasing sound of contemporary acceptability, expressing the old texts in new wine skins.
A setting of "If ye love me," by Philip Wilby (b. 1948) was added to the program; it also demonstrated the new traditional English sound. Thomas Tallis is well and good, but it is good to hear a spirit-moving version that speaks to Twenty-first Century sensibilities.
"I Wonder as I Wander," arr. by Dr.Steve Pilkington of St Olaf, contained two angelic mezzo solos. The timbre of the chorus blossomed from the soloist's sound at the beginning, and reverted to the single sound. The waves of sound, moving seamlessly from soft to loud and back, expressed the soul of the mountain carol.
Ian Coleman's, "The trumpet calls within-a my soul," premiered in October 2013, is an arrangement of the African American spiritual 'Steal Away,' marks the 50th anniversary of Martin Luther King's 'I have a dream' speech. The trumpet skills of Mr. Coleman's colleague at Jewell, Phil Schaefer, were called upon once again to play extended bluesy riffs, and a complete statement of the hymn, "What a friend we have in Jesus," in the mid section. The trumpet and chorus played off each other as in an extemporaneous jam session.
An appreciative full house gave the ensemble a standing ovation after the concluding piece, "Elijah Rock," arranged by Moses Hogan.