Keys Chorale Presents ‘Eclectic Range, From Genre To Genre’
The FKCC Keys Chorale’s spring concert, at the Tennessee Williams Theater, was entitled “Amore: Songs of Love and Passion.” April is a bad time of year for concerts here; the group of singers listed on the program, after the departure of snowbirds, was down to 37. The price of that was an absence of the kind of vocal power which the Chorale at full strength has been noted for.
Instead, there was a quality of warm, relaxed intimacy about it all. This resulted, I think, largely from the unusual arrangement at piano and podium. The concert was directed by Vincent Zito and Jim Cutty: One conducting, the other accompanying, with the two of them trading places after each number. This worked surprisingly well: Rather than the usual quasi-military arrangement of concerts, with the maestro (whoever that may be) firmly and often sternly in charge, this gave the whole operation a kind of friendly down-home quality, particularly since both of them were obviously having a very good time of it. That mood spread attractively to the chorus as a whole.
The program had the kind of eclectic range, from genre to genre, which has come to characterize the Chorale’s concerts: Selections by Gershwin, Richard Rodgers and Kurt Weill, but also songs by Donizetti and Joni Mitchell, and even that old minstrel number “Aura Lee,” which was sung by soldiers during the Civil War and cherished by barber shoppers ever since. The program rather stretched the title of the concert, with tunes like “I Left My Heart in San Francisco” and “What a Wonderful World,” which qualify as love songs only under the widest possible definition of the term. It was a good selection of tunes, as is true in most of the Chorale’s concerts, and they were given good treatments; even the occasional tearjerker, notably Cathy Sembert’s and Gary Perry’s duet on “Let There Be Peace On Earth,” was sung honestly and well, which overcame the sentimentality inherent in the song.
There were, as usual, few solos, all well sung. Christine Carmichael sang “The Rose,” attractively deep in the pitch. “The Rose” is one of those irreducibly simple tunes which demands to be sung perfectly, which it was. Her husband Paul sang “Some Enchanted Evening:” It was nice to hear that song in the low bass range where it belongs. There was also a fine solo by Sally Powell on “Wouldn’t It Be Loverly,” as part of the medley from “My Fair Lady” which ended the concert. Sandy Walters took on the burden of presenting a tune of Jerome Kern’s entitled “You Couldn’t Be Cuter.” That song is not one of Kern’s best: It has his intricate sense of structure, but not his superb ability with melody. It’s difficult to sing, since it demands real accuracy of pitch in handling some rather clumsy intervals. All in all, I’d have found it unrewarding if Sandy hadn’t done such a good job with it.
An especially strong solo came from Barbara Staffen on “Something Wonderful,” from “The King and I.” Clearly a trained singer, she needed no microphone to project her voice throughout the hall. She not only sang that difficult melody, with well chosen dynamic nuances; she acted it out as well.
The concert all went off pretty smoothly: There were occasional slips, and a bobble on one entrance, but no train wrecks. One suggestion: While the first few numbers were well sung, the energy of the group didn’t really come up until the first all-in high energy number, “June Is Bustin’ Out All Over.” It might be wise to design future concert programs with this in mind, using a rouser to get the whole operation shaken out and moving.