Chroma Chamber Ensemble Celebrates American Song

United KingdomUnited Kingdom Copland, Barber, Gershwin, Meyer/O’Connor, et al. Crooked Still, Krauss & Union Station. Chroma Chamber Ensemble [David Le Page (violin), Clare O’Connell (cello), Elena Hull (double bass) Joseph Padfield (baritone).] The Greene Room, Kings Arms, Berkhamsted, 29.3.2015 (LB)

Chroma Chamber Ensemble -500

Traditional/David Le Page, Lonesome Fiddler and Grey Eagle
Copland,Old American Songs:
The Boatman’s Dance;
Long Time  Ago; Simple Gifts
I Bought Me a Cat
Traditional/O’Connell,  Shenandoah
Barber,The Crucifixion
Gershwin, It Ain’t Necessarily So;
I Got Plenty of Nuttin’;
Summer Time
Edgar Meyer/Mark O’Connor ,– Star of County Down;
The Green Groves of Erin/The Flowers of Red Hill
Crooked Still, Undone in Sorrow
Alison Krauss & Union Station, – The Boy Who Wouldn’t Hoe  Corn


 The instrumental ensemble Chroma, formed in 1997 by its artistic director, the cellist Clare O’Connell, has been developing a reputation for its innovative and distinctive approach to music making, especially in this series of concerts which it presents at the Greene Room, a convivial function room above the Kings Arms, on the High Street in Berkhamsted, Hertfordshire.

 Their concert this evening was devoted to Old American Songs, and brought together the unusual combination of violin, cello and double bass, accompanying the rich and eloquent baritone voice of Joseph Padfield, in a selection of seductive and delightful songs.

 An invigorating and infectious account of ‘Lonesome Fiddler’ arranged for violin, cello and double bass by David Le Page, set the tone for the evening, with the audience apparently willingly embarking on a journey, skillfully navigated and narrated by Clare O’Connell.

 Joseph Padfield is a thoughtful baritone, blessed with a wonderful voice, over which he exercises magnificent control, and his account of four songs from the first set of Copland’s Old American Songs was exquisite, with each skillfully and tastefully characterised. His performances of the three well-known tunes from Gershwin’s Porgy and Bess, and Barber’s tender lament on the crucifixion were equally committed, idiomatic and persuasive.

 Shenandoah tells the story of a trader who fell in love with the daughter of an American Indian Chief, and Clare O’Connell’s arrangement, and indeed the ensemble’s performance, captured these poignant sentiments and the power of true love.

 Proceedings after the interval were kick-started by some more virtuosic fiddling from David Le Page, in his effective arrangement of Grey Eagle. Elena Hull, who had until now provided a solid and reliable foundation, finally had the opportunity to showcase her own virtuosity in two pieces popularised by the American Bluegrass double bassist Edgar Meyer. She seized her moment in the limelight with enthusiasm, and also delighted the audience with her entertaining introductions, and fine singing voice in Undone in Sorrow. 

The Boy Who Wouldn’t Hoe Corn brought proceedings to a toe-tapping conclusion and the ensemble graciously responded to the audience’s desire for more.

 For their encore they repeated Copland’s I Bought Me a Cat, but this time invited the audience to participate, and the unanimous, unrestrained vocal contribution was an emphatic tribute to the enthusiasm with which Chroma is received in its hometown.

Leon Bosch

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