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March 31, 2006

Harvard Glee Club shows musical mettle

Birmingham News (AL):

Harvard University opened when America was still a collection of colonies, just 16 years after the Pilgrims arrived on the Massachusetts shore. So it's not surprising that the oldest university glee club in America, a 60-strong all-male assemblage, resides there. That alone doesn't assure great singing from the 148-year-old Harvard Glee Club, but under Jameson Marvin, its leader for the past 28 years, it proved Tuesday that it can hold its own among the finest professional choruses.

Its wide-ranging program at Indian Springs School, part of a five-city Southeast tour, reached as far back as the Renaissance and as late as 2005, but was peppered with American and British standards. Two Latin works set the pace for the two-hour concert. Mendelssohn's "Beati mortui" unfolded with bold dynamic shapes and crisp diction. A fervent rendering of Ferrabosco's "Vocem meam audisti" spotlighted its vocal range, from angelic falsetto countertenors to booming basses.

Bradley Ellingboe's "Innisfree," set to Yeats' inward-looking text, combined intensity and passion with technical discipline. Among the more narrative offerings, Benjamin Britten's "The Ballad of Little Musgrave and Lady Barnard" told a poignant tale of marital infidelity and its tragic consequences in riveting detail.

Less comfortable for the choristers was Hindemith's "Der Tod," which suffered from a muddy blend and timid approach to its dissonant harmonies. Michael Praetorius' "Lo, how a rose e'er blooming" blended too well, its lovely melody often getting lost in the harmony.

The choir's lighter side surfaced in a lively rendition of "Riders in the Sky," the finger-snapping, doo-wop "Good Old A Cappella" and Leonard Cohen's soulful "Hallelujah."Harvard alums in the crowd may have been thrilled with the medley of football songs that closed the concert, but nothing in this concert could top "Suo Gan," the Welsh lullaby made famous in the 1987 film "Empire of the Sun." The Lance Wiliford arrangement showed off the best of this choir - its balance, precision and sharp sonic outlines tied to heartfelt emotion.

Posted by acapnews at March 31, 2006 12:15 AM