Tom Strini

Choral Artists ride the waves

By - Oct 10th, 2009 11:15 pm
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The Milwaukee Choral Artists

The Milwaukee Choral Artists

The sea symbolizes adventure. It also means parting, drowning and, amid its wide expanse, our essential loneliness and fragility in an indifferent universe.

The Milwaukee Choral Artists (there are 21 of them, all women and highly skilled musicians) navigated such elemental sentiments Saturday evening, in a “Watermusic” program (with no Handel). Artistic director Sharon Hansen organized 21 numbers by topic: Water as a Means of Journeying, Source of Separation, and as Endless Inspiration; The Call of the Sea; and Songs of Sea and Sailing Ships.

That resulted in some abrupt changes of style and period. The “Journeying” section, for example, encompassed music by Gustav Holst, Philip Lane, Sally Lamb, Gerald Finzi and Samuel Barber.  It turned out just fine. The contrasts were bracing, and it was interesting to hear composers approached similar ideas differently.

Concerts by women’s choir tends to yield lots of music you’ve never heard before. Lane and Lamb were new to me. Lane’s Full Fathom Five, a setting of Shakespeare, and Lamb’s The Tide Rises, the Tide Falls (Longfellow) are beauties drenched in the tragic stoicism of those who go down to the sea. “The tide rises, the tide falls,” Longfellow wrote, and Lamb responded with hypnotic undulations that continue in the piano (Ernest Brusubardis III was the excellent pianist) even as the chorus moves on to new material. The sea has its rhythm and is eternal; we are not.

Sharon A. Hansen, Milwaukee Choral Artists

Sharon Hansen, MCA founder and artistic director

Hansen draws the finest shades of meaning from the tiniest gradations of pace, accent and volume. Her women are so attuned to her and to one another that they become like one rich and varied voice. Schubert and Schumann sets came out sounding like harmonized art songs.

The Choral Artists’ legendary sensitivity to harmony and sonority paid off especially in a set of songs by Debussy and Faure. Those extended, Frenchy chords lit up in rainbows of pastels.

Rick Fitzgerald, a Great Lakes chanty expert, was the guest artist. He came with his autoharp, guitar, raw voice and songs the Great Lakes farers used to sing in the age of sail. Not my pint of grog, frankly.

But I did appreciate his vivid account of the crew of Milwaukee’s own schooner, the Denis Sullivan, rescuing some capsized fishermen off the Florida coast in 2007. (I won’t retell the story; you can read about it here.) Naturally, Fitzgerald wrote a 19th-century folksong about it: Hooray for the Denis Sullivan.

Yar, Matey, I can get on board with that.

This program took place in Immanual Presbyterian Church, 11oo N. Astor St.

Other reviews: Elaine Schmidt.

Categories: Classical, Culture Desk

0 thoughts on “Review: Choral Artists ride the waves”

  1. Anonymous says:

    Thanks Tom. So glad you could join us!

  2. Anonymous says:

    Thank you! I enjoy reading reviews of concerts that I was unable to attend — it allows me to experience it through you words.

  3. Anonymous says:

    Thanks for the nice review, Tom!

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