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March 9, 2009

The Mirinesse Women's Choir exalts in the joy of choral music

Seattle Times (WA):

Their sound is pristine, strong, utterly secure. Their close harmonies and agile rhythmic play make smooth and lucid work of intricate choral pieces. Their repertoire is eclectic, ranging from vintage classical selections (Brahms, Mendelssohn, Debussy) to contemporary works to spirituals, folk melodies and old Shaker tunes.

In short, Mirinesse Women's Choir, now entering its third year, is a welcome addition to the Seattle music scene. You can catch them at two different locations this weekend — repeating a program they performed last Sunday at Seattle's Trinity Episcopal Church — before they go to Oklahoma City next week to take part in the national convention of the American Choral Directors Association.

The convention is "a big deal" for the choir, co-director Rebecca Rottsolk says. There, Mirinesse (taken from the Old English word for "joyful women") will perform for literally thousands of choir directors gathered from all around the country.

Sunday's concert, enhanced by the rich acoustics in Trinity Episcopal Church, showed off the choir to fine effect. It opened on a dramatic note, with a soloist at the back of the church launching into an early Shaker hymn, soon joined by 60-odd singers lined up on either side of the nave.

After that intro, the concert concentrated on classical repertoire: "Exultate, justi, in Domino," a tripping, tricky piece by 17th-century Dutch composer Herman Hollanders, along with two takes on "Ave Maria," one by Brahms, the other by contemporary American composer Guy Forbes which featured striking, cascading-bell effects among the chorus in its middle section.

Seattle composer John Muehleisen's setting of Sara Teasdale's poem, "Spring Night," was another highlight. A line from its hushed opening — "The veils are drawn about the world" — made a perfect match of text and music, as ethereal voices created "scrims" of polyphony on the word "world." Muehleisin was in attendance.

Beguiling contemporary work from Canada's Stephen Hatfield, American composer Z. Randall Stroope and another Seattleite, Valerie Shields, also found a fine home here.

Certain song selections were more comforting than challenging. But even among the more straightforward numbers, there was a touch of the unexpected: a spare Finnish folk song, an Indian-raga-influenced tune that had real pulse and swing to it.

Mirinesse is on less certain ground when flirting with a Latin beat ("Duerme Negrito" by Argentinian songwriter Atahualpa Yupanqi), and they could bring more grit to their handling of spirituals. Another quibble: their program notes should go into more detail, especially on lesser-known contemporary composers whose work they perform.

But these are minor gripes about an ensemble that, helmed by co-conductors Rottsolk (former artistic director of Northwest Girlchoir) and Beth Ann Bonnecroy (still with Northwest Girlchoir), delivers solid, soaring goods with a venturesome repertoire.

Posted by acapnews at March 9, 2009 7:37 PM


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