by Michael Caruso
The Academy of Vocal Arts, the nation’s only full-scholarship school focusing on singing, will pay a visit to Chestnut Hill Saturday, March 15. Led by David Lofton, AVA’s students will perform “Jubilate,” the annual concert featuring selections from the sacred music repertoire. The performance is set to begin at 7:30 p.m. in St. Paul’s Episcopal Church, 22 E. Chestnut Hill Ave.
East Falls’ K. James McDowell, AVA’s president and artistic director, has remarked on the rarity of local parishes and congregations including the masterpieces of the sacred choral and solo repertoire in their liturgies. Chestnut Hillers are lucky, since two local Episcopal parishes — St. Paul’s and St. Martin-in-the-Fields — do, indeed, regularly perform pieces drawn from many centuries of classical masterpieces. But both St. Paul’s and St. Martin’s Churches are the exceptions rather than the rule.
McDowell has pointed out that many of the young singers who come to AVA following undergraduate work elsewhere arrive without a firm knowledge of the sacred choral and solo repertoire, even though choruses and orchestras throughout the country and across the world regularly schedule such works as part of their season and need well-trained professional singers to perform these scores in concert.
Not surprisingly, several works by both Johann Sebastian Bach and George Frideric Handel will be included in the program, as these two masters of the High Baroque style of the late 17th and early 18th centuries composed the greatest scores in the sacred repertoire. The music of Felix Mendelssohn will also be highlighted, as will works by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart and Franz Joseph Haydn.
For ticket information, call 215-735-1685 or visit www.avaopera.org. AVA’s next fully staged opera production will be of Jules Massenet’s “Manon” April 26-May 10.
Flourtown songstress Katie Eagleson will offer two concert sets to mark the release of her CD, “In My Fashion,” Sunday, March 16, at 2 p.m. in the Jacobs Music Store in Willow Grove on Route 611 just south of the Pennsylvania Turnpike.
“During intermission,” Eagleson said, “we’ll be serving complimentary refreshments, including my home-made chocolate chip cookies. I’ll be performing with my regular fellows: Lenny Pierro on saxophone, Madison Rast on bass and Grant MacAvoy on drums. We’re happy to be joined by Tom Lawton on piano, Adeline Tomasone on flute and Tom Giacabetti on guitar, all of whom played on the CD.
“Lenny (Pierro) and I choose the material together. That is, we both bring songs to the table and try them out. I choose the song primarily because I like the lyrics, or I like the way the lyrics and the melody fit together. Lenny says he’s usually attracted to the melodic and harmonic content first. But at the end of the day, some songs just grab you, and you don’t know why.”
I found “In My Fashion” to offer a superb selection of numbers from the “Great American Songbook” of pop standards that have been sung by vocalists for decades. Yet, here they are given a contemporary twist. In contradiction of the assurance on “Downton Abbey” by the Dowager Countess that “nothing succeeds like excess,” Eagleson and her band-mates prove that “less can be more.” Amid a bevy of favorites, my primary choice would be her rendition of Harold Arlen & E.Y. Harburg”s “Over the Rainbow,” made iconic by Judy Garland in “The Wizard of Oz.” Her renditions of “My Shining Hour,” “Nice ’n’ Easy,” “Long Ago and Far Away” and “All the Things You Are” are no less praiseworthy, making “In My Fashion” a gem of a CD.
Tickets for the concert are $12, and seating is limited. All CDs will be sold for $10 on the day of the concert. Visit www.KatieEagleson.com.
Sometimes “less can be too little.” Such was the case with the joint production of Francis Poulenc’s opera, “Dialogues of the Carmelites,” Friday evening, March 7, in Perelman Theater. A collaboration by the Curtis Opera Theatre, Opera Philadelphia and the Kimmel Center, this “Dialogues” was so stingily staged that rather than offering a sense of timelessness — which the opera intends — it offered an unanchored sterility that was fatal.
Although Georges Bernanos’ libretto is bloated to twice its necessary length via heaps of redundant details, Poulenc responded to its wordiness with a score that is supple and sinuous, eloquent and forceful. And conductor Corrado Rovaris led the Curtis Symphony Orchestra vibrantly if occasionally too loudly for the young voices onstage. There was no sense of place and no consistency of time, forcing the cast to over-emote every inflection and overplay every gesture to the point of meaningless exaggeration.
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