‘You are our guinea pigs,’ Mr. Washburn explained to the audience. ‘We thought we would try something new and go with a theme for this program. This is sort of an experiment.’ The resulting theme for this entirely a cappella concert, “Moods and Modes, Emotions in Music”, took the audience on an exploration through six emotions: Cheerfulness; Piety; Intensity; Playfulness; Sorrow, and Humour.
JS Bach’s Lobet den Herrn, alle Heiden, BWV 230 and Ivo Antognini’s Canticum Novum were highlights in the Cheerfulness set.
Piety included the gentle and lifting Bist du bei mir (JS Bach, arr. Jon Washburn) and finished with Antonin Dvorak’s I Will Sing New Songs of Gladness (from Biblical Songs). In reference to the latter, Mr. Washburn couldn’t resist pointing out ‘This shows you don’t have to be quiet to be pious!’
The Intensity set highlighted layers and layers of praise in the gorgeous Thea’s Poem (Peter Berring) and concluded with two wonderful spirituals that depicted the emotion with resounding exclamation.
Playfulness was exactly that – playful. The voices danced through three delightful folk songs – Swedish, Hungarian, and as noted by Washburn, ‘Bernstein-ish’.
Mr. Washburn prepared the audience for the Sorrow set – ‘At the end of the set, you will want to either give applause or cry.’ Indeed. From the breathtaking Weep, O mine eyes (John Bennet), to Drop, drop, slow tears (Eleanor Daley), to Go, crystal tears (John Dowland), to Mille regretz (Josquin des Prez), the music of the Sorrow set was a floating veil over the audience. At the finish of the fourth piece, Mr. Washburn took a white handkerchief from his pocket and dramatically wiped pretend tears from his eyes.
Sorrow was followed by the last set, Humour, with its jesting and spinning and juxtapositions that were fun but difficult to pull off (which the choir easily did).
An immediate and complete Standing Ovation brought a final song – Maurice Durufle’s sublime Ubi caritas. A perfect finish to this afternoon of lavish sounds.
Article written by Mary Leigh-Warden