Even religio-phobic me couldn't resist catching a bus out to College Avenue Baptist Church last gray and misty Saturday night to attend the opening concert of the San Diego Master Chorale's 50th season. This all-volunteer troupe of music lovers always give their best and and aren't afraid of filling their concert calendar with music their audience had never heard of before.
Saturday night's two hours long event was well programmed with choral music ranging from the Renaissance master Henry Purcell's (1659-1695) to music of living composers like Paul Halley and David Conte, the latter of whom was present for the world premiere of his choral poem "To Music", a gentle choral serenade with warm and cozy layers of love embedded in vocal interplays and piano accompaniment that is quite refreshing on many levels.
Being an opera fan I, of course, especially loved the inclusion of Samuel Barber's lilting Act II "Under the Willow Tree" from his opera "Vanessa". A few chorale members also turned in convincing bits of solo singing. Especially noteworthy was sweet-voiced soprano Jenny Spence, who hushed the hall in her delightful rendition of Purcell's "Thou Tun'st This World".
The crowd's favorite piece was undoubtedly Georgy Sviridov's playful "Magpie Chatter". I suppose the composer must have had the ill-luck of living near a magpie nest to have come up with this marvelously descriptive chirping banter. It also helped that the SDMC singers are a jolly bunch and made quite a group of enthusiastic magpie in all of its vocal demography. It didn't take much encouragement from the chorus master, Dr. Gary McKercher, for the audience to demand it as an encore to cap off the night.
If you are in San Diego and missed this concert, the SDMC is having another performance of the same program at La Jolla Presbyterian Church on October 24th. Give it a go. It's quite worth the ticket price!