Reviews ...

Happy big Five-Oh, Polymnia 

 ... a fitting end to the first half century

by Jackie Wattenberg

Editor's note: The Polymnia Choral Society marked its first 50 years with a season-closing banquet in June, at which they honored not only seven former directors and officers, but members who have made an extra effort during the past season. The regional group, which calls Melrose its home, held its final concert a week before, which SilverStringer Jackie Wattenberg reviews below:

It was an evening of true gaiety, light hearts and terrific soloists as The Polymnia Choral Society celebrated its 50th birthday, now under the hands of congenial conductor Michelle Graveline who chats easily with the audience in pointing out special features of her programs.

And an ambitious program it was.

Carrying out their printed theme of "A Musical Feast," the singers gave us songs honoring food, glorious food, and many of us sitting at the tables in Memorial Hall Saturday evening felt compelled to order something from the tempting menu. But the climactic buffet of the affair was the final offering of excerpts from "Die Fledermaus" by Johann Strauss with marvelous soloists. Since, after two intermissions, a few people were straggling out, this notable section would have been a strong segment a bit earlier.

The opening selection from that work, the delightful and high-pitched "Adele's Laughing Song," was a stunner as ripped off with charm and lustrous high notes by soprano Amanda Morse. Then came another notable soprano, Denise Komicek, whose bright beauty of tone made Rosalinda's songs impressive. Thomas Weber has a flexible, warm-toned baritone that he uses with such seeming ease, plus dramatic effect, that he was a highlight of the evening. As Prince Orlofsky, mezzo-soprano Margaret Tartaglia was amusing, her dusky tones adaptable to the plot's foils.

Fine tenor Richard Monroe added his talents throughout the evening, assured and romantic in "The Drinking Song" from Verdi's "La Traviata" with Christine Lord, whose soprano is ever lovelier. Baritone Joseph Cesario also performed frequently and capably in many roles, and Phil Kukura, a robust baritone, and Liz Donaldson, pleasing soprano, did handsomely in "Food, Glorious Food" from Oliver.

Exceptional in this program dedicated to gastronomic matters was a sweet Welsh lullaby and a dance from "The Gondoliers" by Gilbert and Sullivan. But Epicurean fascination brought us to a riotous performance by Ainsley Donaldson describing the agonies of "Lime Jell-O Marshmallow Cottage Cheese Surprise," making fun of  the ubiquitous Jell-O delights we encounter.

Then for those with full appetite there was the hearty "Seasonings" by P.D.Q. Bach (Peter Shickele): Bide Thy Thyme, Open Sesame Seeds, Summer is a Cumin Seed, etc. This silly composition was performed with many soloists and sound effects -- boohoos, giggles, sneezes and sonorous snorts.

Dorothy Travis once more provided sympathetic musical accompaniments to the wide flinging music, a very busy local treasure. Because of the 50-mark year, conductor Graveline at one point invited former members to join them in singing, which drew a few vocalists on stage. Sitting at my table was Margaret (Peggy) Goyette, who told us with pleasure that she had been a charter member--in the first year of Polymnia! Then it was much smaller, about half its present size, she said.

Well, Polymnia has come a long way since then, and is a firm and tasteful part of Melrose.

This review was previously published in the Melrose Free Press and is reprinted here with their permission.

July 2, 2004

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