September 9, 2007, Star Tribune: SPCO’s vocal program kicks off fall season
September 8, 2007
William Randall Beard
The St. Paul Chamber Orchestra opened its season this weekend at the Ordway Center for the Performing Arts with a novelty: excerpts from Beethoven’s opera "Leonore," an early version of his more familiar "Fidelio."
Along with Mendelssohn’s symphony-cantata "Hymn of Praise," featuring VocalEssence, the season got off to an appropriately celebratory start.
In the structure of Mendelssohn’s symphony-cantata, a multi-movement work for voice and orchestra, it is clear that he knew Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony. But throughout, "Hymn of Praise" is pure Mendelssohn, full of his warmhearted, exuberant melodies.
Dancing about on the podium, McGegan seemed intent on filling this music with joy, and the musicians responded. The performance was exuberant without neglecting the work’s spiritual significance.
VocalEssence was the vocal star of the evening. It created a vibrant sound and offered a deeply felt performance that gave the music added profundity. Mendelssohn’s "Hallelujah Chorus" that concluded the work ended the evening on a real high.
William Randall Beard is a Minneapolis writer.