Five Choirs Perform Separately, Then Unite for Mozart

United StatesUnited States Winter Choral Showcase. College-Conservatory of Music Chamber Choir and Chorale, Men’s and Women’s Choruses of the University of Cincinnati, Cincinnati Children’s Choir. College-Conservatory of Music. University of Cincinnati. Cincinnati, Ohio. Corbett Auditorium. 1.2.2014 (RDA)

Miguel Roig-Francoli: Missa Pro Pace
Gioacchino Rossini: Petite Messe Solennelle
Selections by Gwyneth Walker, Vida, Dolores Keane, Joseph M. Martin, Edvard Grieg, J.S. Bach, James Kantor, Ola Gjello, and W. A. Mozart


 “Lord, behold this poor little Mass…You know that I was born for comic opera… with little science…a little heart…that is all. So bless me and grant me Paradise.” So wrote Gioacchino Rossini on the first page of his Little Solemn Mass, after he had indulged his voracious appetite for great food, beautiful women and raunchy humor, and perhaps exhausted his creative juices. But after composing all the ditties that make up his Sins of my Old Age, the composer decided to make peace with his Creator by writing Petite Messe Solennelle, a small-scale work for two pianos, harmonium, and, as a critic put it, “the greatest singers on earth.” At the College-Conservatory of Music (CCM), the youthful singers of the Chamber Choir sang this theatrically-charged church music remarkably well.

 The evening also featured three selections from the Missa Pro Pace by the Spanish-born composer, Miguel Angel Roig-Francoli. This is a deeply spiritual, richly melodic composition, written in an accessible tonal idiom. Francoli uses the text of the Latin Mass, and traces his musical roots in this instance to the mystical compositions that the Spanish Renaissance composer Tomas Luis de Victoria wrote for the Church of Rome.

 The three sections of Francoli’s Mass for Peace often use ostinato rhythmic patterns that underpin the accompaniment, and the compositional technique perfectly supports the vocal lines. Nothing extraneous is present. Excerpts from the work were given a splendid performance by the CCM Chorale, with the sopranos beautifully handling the high-lying tessitura. The performance whetted the appetite for more Francoli.

 The University of Cincinnati Women’s Chorus sang three selections by contemporary American women composers. In the unaccompanied Famine Song they created stunning effects that simulated rain by random clicking of their fingers, and in Dolores Keane’s Mouth Music they sang in what we assumed to be a native American language, with rapid speed and flawless articulation, accompanied by the potent percussionist Kyle Lamb on the tumbadora. Brett Scott and Michael Fuchs are two young conductors of great promise who alternated at the podium.

 Marie Bucoy-Calavan led the UC Men’s Chorus with musicality, energy and a clear beat in Joseph M. Martin’s spiritually-rousing Sing Your Way Home, in the lively tongue-twisting folk song De Animals A-Comin’ and in Edvard Grieg’s whimsical Bådn-lat, which became an audience favorite, thanks to its droll meowing solos.

Robyn Lana led her very young, very musical, and very gifted members of the Cincinnati Children’s Choir in part of J.S. Bach’s Cantata No. 78, followed by Beati in domo domini by James Kantor, and the haunting Tundra by the Norwegian composer Ola Gjeilo, with the youngsters singing excellent Latin, German and Norwegian.

 The concert closed with the gifted Yaru Tan conducting the massed forces of all five ensembles (from both stage and auditorium) in a moving Mozart Ave Verum Corpus.

 It was no coincidence that in 2012 Cincinnati was chosen as the first American city to host the World Choir Games. Cincinnati’s great tradition of choral singing dates back to the nineteenth century, and this concert renewed hope for the future of that musical heritage. For nurturing the youthful ranks of the Cincinnati Children’s Choir we can thank the indispensable Robyn Lama, and for the College-Conservatory of Music, Earl Rivers, head of its Choral Music program.

Rafael de Acha