The Sacramento Choral Calendar
Women's Choral Studio
I Sing to You All Day! (Yo Le Canto Todo El Dia!) - May 20, 2012
by Dick Frantzreb
In this intense season of choral performances, it’s easy overlook the small, young chorus. There are many large choruses with strong reputations, highly trained or experienced singers, long history and hundreds or even thousands of followers. Yet there are small choruses which themselves have high standards and are quite capable of putting on a pleasing concert. I heard one such chorus this past Sunday afternoon at St. Michael’s Episcopal Church in Carmichael.
The Women’s Choral Studio is currently an 8-member women’s chorus, directed by Catherine Fagiolo. The publicity for the concert described it in this way: “'Yo Le Canto Todo El Dia!: I Sing To You All Day!' features 19th century French music by composer Léo Delibes, African-American spirituals, the Spanish Ballades of American composer Eugene Butler, and other music capturing Spanish cultural rhythms and language. Delibes wrote a great number of musical works for the theatre and ballet. His ballet Coppélia and his opera Lakmé are well-known and frequently performed. The Messe Brève ('Brief Mass') for treble voices and organ is a beautiful example of Delibes’ melodic gifts. Butler’s Spanish 'Ballades' express the playfulness, poignancy, and romanticism associated with images of moonlit nights and festive spring days. The concert’s title piece, 'Yo Le Canto Todo El Dia!' by American composer David Brunner, is a lively and rhythmic celebration of music making with Venezuelan text and flavor. Spirituals include 'Witness,' 'Keep Your Lamps,' and Harry T. Burleigh’s 'Swing Low, Sweet Chariot' in engaging arrangements for treble choir. A peaceful and lilting Mexican 'Lullaby' rounds out the program. The Choral Studio performance is accompanied by pianist Tavifa Mordovtseva. Families and listeners of all ages are invited to this concert of lovely and accessible vocal music." (Click here to view the concert program.)
Indeed, it was lovely and accessible vocal music. Director Catherine Fagiolo began by greeting the audience, and before each section of the program she gave fairly extensive background on the music, roughly the equivalent of program notes. It was information that clearly helped the audience’s appreciation of what was to come. And her presentations were articulate, well-informed, and personable. These introductions fit the “studio” part of this group’s name: I began to see Catherine as a knowledgeable and effective teacher. Beyond that, she has very expressive directing, which of course, leads to expressive singing. She seemed unusually dynamic and easy to follow. I could easily see her leading a much, much larger chorus.
The ensemble singing on this day made for pleasant listening in the resonant sanctuary of the church. The mass itself was very accessible and melodic – and, of course, brief. It had lovely interwoven melodies, and I found myself forgetting that it was written for only two voice parts. The succeeding sections each provided a nice change of pace and demonstrated the versatility of the group. The final piece, “Yo Le Canto Todo El Dia!” which Ms. Fagiolo introduced as “a playful, Venezuelan-style dance song,” was the most challenging piece, with its varied patterns of rhythmic clapping. Difficult as it was, it demonstrated the skill and dedication of both chorus and director.
The singing was accurate and expressive. I believe each singer had at least one brief solo part during the concert. Except for one particularly sweet solo voice, the solo voices sounded light to me, but the ensemble was solid. Articulation was excellent, and I felt I understood just about every word. Except for the mass, each piece was sung from memory.
The accompanist deserves a lot of credit (as does the director) because of the great distance that separated them. The mass was accompanied by organ from well behind and to the side of the chorus. The other pieces were accompanied by piano, even more distant. Still, the coordination between director and accompanist went well, and the young Ms. Mordovtseva displayed considerable talent.
Ms. Fagiolo announces that she is seeking both men and women for the next season of the Choral Studio. It will be interesting to see what the next phase of this group’s evolution will hold.