Chorale bridges four generations and shines

  • Article by: WILLIAM RANDALL BEARD , Special to the Star Tribune
  • Updated: November 22, 2010 - 7:23 PM

In a varied program, the Minnesota Chorale featured singers from young to old.

With its annual Bridges concert, heard Sunday afternoon at Westwood Lutheran Church, the Minnesota Chorale created an irresistible choral experience. The intention of the series is to build bridges to diverse populations. This year's focus was on bridges between generations, and the chorale was joined by its own Minneapolis Youth Chorus and Voices of Experience, a senior choir it's sponsoring with MacPhail Center for Music.

The performance opened and closed with the massed choirs singing Robert Wadsworth Lowry's "How Can I Keep From Singing?" The massed voices resounded through the hall. Ironically, the simpler opening version was more effective, better showcasing the robust choral sound.

The chorale proved once again that it is one of the area's preeminent choirs. Its rendition of "Magnificat" by Ruth Watson Henderson combined impeccable diction with a real commitment to the music, a deeply spiritual performance.

The chorale is more likely to be seen performing with the Minnesota Orchestra or SPCO. It might be easy to forget what a superb maestro artistic director Kathy Saltzman Romey really is. She proved masterful at maintaining a disciplined ensemble and infusing it with passion.

Familiar choruses by Brahms, Mendelssohn and Paulus were handled with ease, most movingly when joined in the last two by the Voices of Experience and conducted by its accomplished director, Mary Kay Geston.

The Voices of Experience is a smaller ensemble, which left the individual voices more exposed. What it lacked in voluptuousness it made up for in insight, delivering idiomatic performances of diverse works, including one by contemporary choral master Rene Clausen, a traditional Jewish prayer and "Danny Boy."

The revelation of the concert was the Minneapolis Youth Chorus, exceptionally well rehearsed by founding conductor Patrice Arasim. For such a young ensemble, it produced a strong, round sound.

The Youth Chorus was featured in the world premiere of Steve Heitzeg's "I Pray to the Birds." Heitzeg created a thrilling piece, a full-throated setting of an inspirational text. The youths often took the lead, supported by the adults, and they held their own with the more mature ensemble.

Four generations of musicians performed together, and there is an effort to create mentoring relationships among the choirs. It is exciting to think that the next generation of professionals is being fostered.

William Randall Beard writes regularly about music and theater.

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