Davis Chamber Choir
Evolution of English and German Polyphony - March 14, 2014
by Dick Frantzreb
This is a young choir – no more than about 3 or 4 years in existence – and I was anxious to hear what they could do. It’s a small group with just 16 singers, apparently all Davis students, though organized as a club, rather than as part of the UCD Music Department. They are led by recent Davis grad, Andrew Hudson – a young man with an obvious gift for directing and broad musical knowledge.
The title of the concert, “Evolution of English and German Polyphony,” is an accurate description, though not a title likely to pull in people off the street. The audience was thin, with a large representation of students – no doubt friends of the singers. The venue, the United Methodist Church of Davis, was perfect for an a cappella concert – resonant but not overly so, such as to risk muddying the intricacies of the musical phrases.
(Click here to open the concert program in a new window.)
During the program I was conscious of many lovely voices, and picked up especially pleasant sounds from the high soprano and low bass, though once or twice I felt these sections became a little too prominent. In general, though, I was impressed with the accuracy of pitch and dynamic control. There were almost as many men as women, but as so often happens, it did seem that the tenors were overmatched by the other sections.
These were distinctly young voices, and I was often conscious of an exquisite blend, particularly in the slow sections when they were able to hear and tune to each other. I also felt that they sang with great sensitivity. It seemed that this was due in large part to the director. Besides cuing the dynamic and tempo changes, I thought I could see that his confidence was transmitted to the singers, encouraging them to bring out the passion in the music.
The concert was only about 50 minutes in length, and that included a brief intermission. Yet it was clear that a lot of work went into performing these 9 works, most of which would be extremely difficult for casual singers. Not that these young people are casual singers. Hudson explained that few, if any, were music majors, yet most of them seemed to me to be experienced singers, something I deduced – wrongly or rightly – from their singing technique, body language, and apparent confidence.
I did think I perceived some flaws in the performance. Occasionally I sensed a problem in intonation – probably a wrong note. And sometimes a fugue passage seemed to lose energy and precision, with so few singers on each part (only 3 tenors, I believe). Yet there were many transcendent moments in the concert. Personally, I got to a point where I got tired of analyzing, and just relaxed and enjoyed the beautiful sounds, which were so abundant.
There are not many choirs in our area that perform this kind of music. This young group is making its mark, and I’m anxious to see how they will develop. Last night, I drove nearly 2 hours roundtrip for about 50 minutes of music. But I’d do it again for a concert that was as well performed as this one was.