Last weekend, One Voice Mixed Chorus celebrated “Minnesota Voices,” the finale of its 25th season, heard Saturday afternoon at Sundin Hall. I’ve followed the chorus since the early ‘90s and can state that the ensemble never has sounded better.
Artistic Director Jane Ramseyer Miller is a master at programming, juxtaposing serious and comic numbers, utilizing small groups and solo voices, even including audience sing-a-longs. She created a theatrical concert that was always entertaining.
The GLBT chorus is still quite gay. But it’s moved beyond that single agenda to focusing on being a first-rate ensemble. Next weekend, One Voice tours this program to northern Minnesota.
It demonstrated its musical chops with pieces like the difficult “By the Fireside,” by Christopher Gable, about HIV/AIDS, setting two African poems and a section of the Requiem. There were also works by Libby Larsen, Antonin Dvorák, Abbie Betinis, Joshua Shank and former One Voice music director Paul Siskind.
One Voice members Elizabeth Alexander and Danielle Boor contributed numbers that stood up, even in this company.
A male chorus of lumberjacks, from Benjamin Britten’s “Paul Bunyan,” had all the panache that the operetta demanded. The women followed with an equally masterful performance of a section from Ruth MacKenzie’s stunning “Kalevala.”
The concert was full of tongue-in-cheek humor, especially Ann Reed’s “The Fair,” extolling the virtues of the Minnesota State Fair.
Miller contributed an arrangement of “Gimme That Ole Time Religion,” that included celebrations of truly old time (pre-Christian) religions.
The program included a celebration of the recent vote for marriage equality, with Phyllis Goldin’s “The Couple Next Door,” an exceptionally tender representation of lesbian love.
But Robert Seeley’s depiction of continued ostracization, “I Come from Good People” from his cantata, “Naked Man,” demonstrates how far society still has to go.
Ovation, an 11-member group, contributed breathtaking a cappella singing, ably accompanied by music director Mindy Eschedor on piano, Scott Lykins, cello, and Steve Humerickhouse, oboe.
Miller conducted an ensemble that was capable of producing a resounding sound, while still maintaining tightly balanced harmonies. It was only in the solo passages the chorus sounded like anything less than a professional ensemble.
William Randall Beard writes about music and theater.