The Sacramento Choral Calendar


Concert Review

Sacramento Children's Chorus

Après le Noël: Gloria! - January 31, 2016

by Nancy Bramlett

It was a brisk and blustery Sunday evening at St. John’s Lutheran Church in Sacramento.  The Sacramento Children’s Chorus brilliantly performed their “Après le Noël” (translation “After Christmas”) concert.  What a fabulous idea!  We are treated to so much music right before Christmas and then are obliged to wait months before most choirs are ready for the next round of concerts.  I love having this opportunity in the ”dead of winter.”

The Sacramento Children’s Chorus is actually made up of 6 Choruses, two of which performed this evening:  Music Makers (1st and 2nd grades); Cantate (2nd – 5th); Cantabile (3rd – 6th); Cantus (5th – 9th); Cantoris (7th-10th) and Cappella (10th – College). 

When I went to "Will Call" to pick up my ticket, I thought I saw Don Kendrick.  Then I thought, no you are just being silly, why would such a premier choral conductor come to a children’s concert?  Even a superb one? The program cleared that question up: SCC was founded by Lynn Stevens and Donald Kendrick 18 years ago. What a smart move, helping to create masterful young singers that can fill the ranks of the SCSO as they grow in age and musical maturity.

Lynn Stevens, artistic director, conductor and co-founder of the Sacramento Children’s Chorus, has more than thirty years’ experience in teaching choral music to children. Ms. Stevens received a Bachelor of Arts in Music from the University of Southern California, and a Master of Music in Choral Conducting from California State University, Sacramento. It was during her master’s program that Ms. Stevens co-founded the Sacramento Children’s Chorus with Dr. Donald Kendrick.

Under Stevens' tutelage, the choirs have flourished.  The technique has been impeccable: blend, balance, pitch, rhythm, diction, articulation, cutoffs, entrances, dynamics, expression — and all of it memorized! 

St. John’s Lutheran Church added to the evening with wonderful acoustics, beautiful stained glass windows and an elegant interior.  By the look of the organ, it must sound wonderful, as well.

The evening’s fare was in four sections:  Cappella (HS+college) began, then Cantoris (7th – 10th) finished the first half.  El Camino High School then sparkled in their guest appearance, the ECHS joined with Cappella for selections from Vivaldi’s Gloria, finishing off the evening with everyone singing “And This Shall Be for Music” (text from Robert Louis Stevenson).

Please click here to open the program in a new window.

Cappella made a grand entrance processing in to “Wintertime Cheer” with excellent bass tones, then delighted the heart with the “Shivering Chorus” accompanied by the harpsichord.  The staccato was particularly impressive.

Stevens read lines of poetry before the next piece: “What Sweeter Music,” with soloist Carly Adamson and sweet harmonies combined.  “Sing Me to Winter“ was wonderfully jazzy and featured soloists Riley Beck and Brooke Leonard.  The combination of warm and cool harmonies was perfectly blended and balanced, and the use of solo and duet was very effective.

The last in this set was a spiritual that set our hands clapping, “Oh, What a Beautiful City.”

Cantoris (7-10th) then followed with Kyrie from “Missa Brevis,” with more perfect blend, pitch and diction and a mix of simple and layered harmonies, followed by “Magical Kingdom” by John Rutter, with magical words of dreams and wishes and make-believe. “Kalanta of the New Year” (a Greek Folk Song) finished out the set with impressive Greek lyrics and fun cheers from within the choir.

After the brief intermission, the El Camino Madrigal Choir performed.  Their director, David Vanderbout, received his Bachelor’s at CSU Sacramento.  They began with Schubert’s “Lebenslust,” a light, fun dance of a song (I hope Schubert won’t deride me, but I could see the ballet before my eyes).  “Mon Coeur Se Recommande à Vous” sounded hymn-like, though its subject was human love, not divine. “The Seal Lullaby” was exquisite in music, story and execution.  I wanted to close my eyes and soak it in. Ending their set was “Rock-a my Soul,” complete with foot-tapping fun and a couple of enthusiastic solos.   The audience loved it!

The last section of the evening included Cappella and ECHS Choir combined, singing excerpts from Vivaldi’s Gloria with an accomplished chamber orchestra. Their performance was better than many adult choirs I have heard. The Gloria itself was magnificent. It was also an opportunity for soloists to shine:  Tori Davis, Carly Adamson, Isabela Jackson, Madison Montgomery, Gabby Casentini, Erica Leiserowitz, and Destiny Elazier. The “Quoniam tu solus sanctus” was way too short.  I wanted to soak in the glory.

There was a short break encouraging donations to keep these wonderful opportunities going. And then all of the singers came together to sing the beautiful and shimmering “And This Shall Be for Music.”

And this shall be for music when no one else is near,
The fine song for singing, the rare song to hear!
That only I remember, that only you admire,
Of the broad road that stretches and the roadside fire.

Don’t forget their upcoming performance:  Carmina Burana with the SCSO on March 5, and lend your support to their tour of Finland and the Baltic States of Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania.

A special thanks to the accompanists Kamilyn Davis and David Saul Lee, and the instrumentalists who added beauty, depth and thrill to an already accomplished group of singers.

Nancy Bramlett is a Dramatic Coloratura Soprano from Kansas City, MO.  She graduated from Bradley University in Peoria, IL with a Bachelor’s of Music in Vocal Performance. She has most recently studied with Marla Volovna in San Francisco and Zoila Munoz in Davis.  Nancy has had the honor of traveling all over the US and to Europe with the Bradley University Chorale.  She has sung in several choirs since then, as well as performing in opera and musical theater productions and singing solos for local churches, as well as weddings and memorial services.  Nancy has directed choirs; taught voice, piano and Kindermusik; and has been a music director for musical theater. She is currently busy with Classical Music for Christ and as a regular soloist for Cottage Way Christian Church in Sacramento and the Placer County Youth Orchestra. Nancy resides in Rocklin with her husband Scott and three sons: Patrick, Riley and John.

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