Pioneer Press: "Chorus America Conference showcases choirs, composers"
By Rob Hubbard, Special to the Pioneer Press
Minnesotans aren't generally the kind to show off.
But when conductors, composers, singers and administrators in the choral business converged upon the Twin Cities on Wednesday, June 13, for the annual Chorus America Conference, it seemed as good a time as any to have a gathering of the tribes, a showcase concert for not only the state's best choirs, but several of its gifted composers, as well.
What both the conventioneers and the locals in attendance experienced at Orchestra Hall on Wednesday evening was a forum for our choral culture that will linger long in the memory. One strong performance followed another as nine vocal ensembles demonstrated their harmonic expertise before uniting for a 500-voice finale that St. Paul composer Stephen Paulus had created for the occasion. It was enough to make a Minnesotan's heart swell with pride.
The show stoppers started when five youth choirs combined for an adrenalin-fueled rendition of Jim Papoulis' percussive "Sililiza."
But many of the evening's most powerful moments were the quietest, such as the Singers' beautiful interpretation of Rene Clausen's "Tonight Eternity Alone" and the National Lutheran Choir's lush, hypnotic performance of J. Aaron McDermid's "Wind."
The evening's most theatrical performance came from the Minnesota Chorale, as dancers with disabilities whirled and wheeled about throughout Mary Ellen Childs' "Sagitta." And Magnum Chorum paid lovely tribute to the St. Olaf College choral tradition with works by a pair of former directors.
There were moments when the material wasn't ideal for demonstrating what's so great about a given group.
Cantus was the lone small ensemble on the program, but music from Edie Hill's "A Sound Like This" didn't show off their intimate interplay as well as it could.
The Paulus piece that closed the evening, "When Music Sounds," may have been straightforward in structure -- understandable when assembling 500 singers with little rehearsal -- but it was breathtaking nonetheless, a performance that underlined the idea that great profundities can be found in something as essentially simple as singing.
Rob Hubbard can be reached at email@example.com.