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February 4, 2004

REVIEW

The Chattanoogan

I can't imagine many choir directors alive who haven't fantasized about conducting the St. Olaf Choir, or at least one like it. For, when it comes to college choirs, St. Olaf is simply the Gold Standard. It just doesn't get much better. And just in case there was any doubt, this amazing choral ensemble demonstrated Monday evening that the reputation which preceded it is well deserved. Well deserved enough to draw a huge crowd to the large Conn Auditorium on the campus of Lee University for the latest in its Presidential Concert Series. And not only did this mass of humanity come out on a cold, rainy Monday evening, they even paid to attend. And that's something few college choirs in the nation can even dream of; most are just happy to have a crowd.

The current director is Anton Armstrong who has molded the choir in his musical image since the early nineties. And what an amazing job he has done. From the opening "Jubilate Deo" by Orlando di Lasso to the final encore, Armstrong led his musical charges through an inspired evening of impeccable choral singing--although singing might be too inadequate a word. Musical expression would come closer, for the concert was not just a treat for the ear but also for the eye. For while most choirs stand relatively placid or sway to pre-choreographed movements, these singers' bodies came alive in a visual polyphony that flowed, bobbed, and pulsated in a thrilling visual expression of the music.

And strangely, it wasn't at all detracting. This was particularly true with the choir's fourth selection, Bach's brilliant motet, "Lobet den Herrn" (BWV 230). Throughout this major polyphonic work, the group possessed an animation that literally captured physically what was transpiring in the music. This amazing performance seemed pretty close to my idea of the definitive performance of this seminal work, leaving even the most skeptical listeners to Bach's choral music with nothing but praise. More

Posted by acapnews at February 4, 2004 8:27 AM

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