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Antietam Women's Chorus takes audience on global musical tour

May 09, 2007|by HARRY NOGLE

Review

Now in its third year, the Antietam Women's Chorus, under the direction of Georgiann Hinchcliffe Toole, presented another thematic performance April 28 and 29 at Holy Trinity Church in Sharpsburg.

The 27-member women's chorus and Toole continue to successfully complement one another in the setting of the historic Sharpsburg church which is large enough to accompany the audience, but small enough to create the intimacy among the chorus, the director and the audience that is so special to performances of the Antietam Women's Chorus.

The audience (many familiar with the work of the ensemble) eagerly entered the church to hear "What the World Needs Now: Love Songs from Across the World," and they were not disappointed.

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Toole directed the opening work "Arise, My Love" with text from The Song of Solomon in her usual businesslike, professional style.

But it is when she turned to the audience to introduce the next two numbers that the audience realized she has welcomed them to join in and become a part of the performance. The audience willingly responds to her smiles and winks.

And, when Georgiann turns to her chorus, she leads, she guides, she coaxes - and they too respond. With another superb performance!

The "global journey of love" next went to Scotland with a traditional Scottish ballad "Will Ye Go, Laddie?" and Spain with the Judeo-Spanish lament "Los Bilbilicos." The clarinet accompaniment of Karen Hart reinforced the melancholy lyrics of "Los Bilbilicos": "My heart withers away,/ Suffering from love's pain."

Hebrew Love Songs

Georgiann explained that Eric Whitacre, who arranged the next series of "Hebrew Love Songs," is considered "a rock star of choral music." Whitacre creates warm, engaging music known for its use of color and atmosphere. His use of choir and violin create special effects, and this was apparent from the violin of guest musician Alyssa Boxhill and piano accompanist Pam Lego.

Judy Loiseau-Myers and Toni Dufficy performed beautiful and haunting solos during this work.

Then, the violin and piano helped the chorus build the tempo of the works until they burst into a lively release accompanied by tambourine.

The arranger relates that each of these songs captures a moment that he and Hila Plitmann (who wrote the texts) shared together: "A picture is engraved in my heart;/Moving between light and darkness." Hila Plitmann became the wife of Eric Whitacre.

The audience showed their appreciation for the Hebrew Love Songs with long and loud applause. A wink from Georgiann brought smiles from her ensemble.

Delancy Catlett and Dan Duncan from Food Resources spoke during the intermission and explained that the 20-year-old organization provides food and grocery items to nutrition programs targeting low income households, children and those that are elderly and/or disabled. They stated that a $1 donation can provide $10 of food for someone.

Rose Trilogy

Fanny Smith read an introduction to Robert Burns's "A Red, Red Rose," the first song in the Rose Trilogy. This trilogy was arranged by Canadian composer Eleanor Daley who has a "gift for melody," and who "weaves text and music." The chorus sang the verse of Robert Burns that many of us read in school: "O my luve's like a red, red rose that's newly sprung in June."

Laura LaPole read the introduction to "The White Rose" a more up-tempo work which stated "The red rose whispers of passion, and the white rose breathes of love." Rosemary Coy's soprano solo "For the love that is purest and sweetest" was crisp and clear.

The chorus completed the Rose Trilogy with the almost solemn "The Lost Rose." After Elizabeth Gillett's reading, the voices of the chorus filled the church with a dramatic intensity punctuated by harsh strikes of the piano keyboard by guest pianist Nicole Smartwood. The melancholy tone of this song is revealed: "She, false, was born to be, and I to die for love."

The performance of a gentle song titled "Fruits of the Selfless Heart" followed Toole's warm, compassionate introduction in which she stated that "the benefits of giving are as much for the giver as for the beneficiary." A quartet of Gabrielle Davis, Judy Loiseau-Myers, Erin Elliott and Suellen Myers used the words of Mother Theresa of Calcutta to state that "The fruit of love is service."

Toole stated in her next introduction that "this room (the church) does wonderful things for voices" and "Ghana Alleluia" showed why. Ghana Alleluia is from the slow section of a larger recreational piece called "Bobobo" which is a rich texture of singing, dancing and drumming. This piece is a mixture of traditional and Christian musical ideas and text.

After Deborah Myers' spoken introduction, Sue Ann Nogle's strong solo sung in native Ghanese showed her vocal versatility. The ensemble's enthusiastic interpretation of this rhythmic song complete with drum, gourd and violin produced participatory clapping from the audience.

"Wondrous Love" concluded the concert, an early American work from "Sacred Harp" expressing wonder and praise and divine love: "What wondrous love is this,/Oh my soul, oh my soul." Again, guest violinist Alyssa Boxhill contributed to the richness of this work.

Performance tonight

For those who missed this concert, you will have another chance to hear the Antietam Women's Ensemble and the Boonsboro High School Women's Chorus and the Boonsboro Middle School Chorus as they join in concert tonight at 7 at the high school.

In addition, prepare yourselves for Nov. 17 and 18 as the Antietam Women's Ensemble travels back in time for a concert of Medieval, Renaissance and Baroque music.

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