I’ve just come home after the “Motets and Cantatas” concert by the Oahu Choral Society Chamber Choir, and I must say that I heard some fantastic singing tonight. Tonight was the Chamber Choir’s debut, consisting of only 22 singers out of the larger OCS ensemble. The tone of the choir was light and agile, the perfect group for singing Bach.
The program began with Johannes Brahms’ “Schaffe in mir, Gott, ein rein Herz, Op. 29, No. 2” and right off the bat, the choir set the bar high on this a cappella work, their tone focused and clear, successfully navigating the tricky chromaticisms.
Next was Bach Motet 3, “Jesu, meine Freude, BWV 227.” I have performed this piece twice before tonight—the first time was March 23, 1983 and the second time was March 21, 1993. (Aren’t we glad that Carl Crosier kept meticulous records about our performances?) Tonight’s performance was excellent in every way, and conductor Esther Yoo kept the tempos brisk where appropriate.
I used the organ copy of “Jesu meine Freude” kept in the LCH choir library, and right on the top of the fugal section of “Ihr aber seid nicht fleischlich,” I had written in large letters, “JEROME!” I assumed this referred to Jerome Vasconcellos, but I cannot for the life of me figure out why I wrote his name at the top. It’s possible that he was the closest person in the choir who could turn the page for me at that point in the performance! Just think, the last time I opened this music was TWENTY-FOUR (24!) years ago!
I had no page turner tonight, but since I played my own baby pipe organ, I was able to turn the pages myself by playing the left hand part in the pedals for only as long as necessary to get the page turned.
Jeremy Wong turned in a fantastic performance of the baritone solo Cantata 56, “Ich will den Kreuzstab gerne tragen,” which opened the second half of the concert. I’m afraid, though, that I was too worried about my own part to pay too much attention to what he was doing. That was because I was reading from the vocal edition and “ad-libbing” an organ continuo part, basically looking at the bass line, and “making up the right hand part” as we went along. Yikes!
The Chamber Choir then performed two works by Felix Mendelssohn, chorale cantatas on “Jesu, meine Freude” and “Wer nur den lieben Gott lässt walten.” Naomi Castro‘s soprano solo in the last work was spun out like cotton candy, pure sweetness and sugar!
Last night, I attended the Hawaii Opera Theater’s production of “Tales of Hoffman,” and we heard some absolutely incredible singing. I was blown away by the Doll Song sung by soprano Rachele Gilmore, who went up into the stratosphere when she sang a high A-flat! Luckily I found a YouTube performance of her debut at the Met with this piece so you can hear it too! Amazingly, she sang the Met debut performance on only four hours notice when Kathleen Kim fell ill, and proceeded to bring the house down. You’ve got to hear this—I’m certain you’ll be blown away, too!
As my friend Vreni Griffith said tonight, we can hear such fantastic singing and performances right here in Honolulu—we don’t have to go to Europe!