Reviews ...

Beethoven Singers delight audience

... gripping, colorful and moving moments

by Jackie Wattenberg

Despite the clouded, soggy day, last Sunday afternoon's recital by several area musicians drew a goodly crowd that showed appreciation of the two-part program--selections from the musical "1776" and a group of songs by women composers sung by Barbara Finegan.

Just a day after Veterans Day, selections from "1776," with narration by Regina Lucas, proved historically gripping, colorful and at moments quite moving. Baritone Cliff Liberman at every entrance grabs our minds and heart--he is the consummate actor-singer whose talents would seem destined for Broadway. Whether his message is peppy, rhythmically exciting or commandingly dramatic, he puts it across with total intensity and a voice of stirring resonance. His quality never varies in his full range, never wobbles or weakens, sustaining that chocolate richness and energy in each song. And we must note his excellent diction--every word projected perfectly. A compelling performer.

Finegan joined him in several of the selections, in her own voice of sustained beauty. Anika Seidman-Gati, a young soprano with a light, musical-show quality, provided an interesting contrast in "He Plays the Violin." Suddenly the music darkened to today's war-time reality with an affecting teenage performer, Andrew Barbato, who slouched against a pillar of the altar as a young soldier droning drearily his words of ebbing life to his mother, "Momma Look Sharp." The young actor brought us a poignant moment.

The program began with an interesting group of songs by women composers from Clara Schumann to Sherri Porterfield, born in 1958. Finegan described the composers and their time with absorbing insights, in a manner easeful and charming. Her soprano voice has a youthful freshness, and the clarity of a mountain stream.

"An Eriksay Love Lilt" by Marjory Kennedy Fraser, 1957-1939, indeed had a lovely lilt, and I especially found charming two songs from "The Secret Garden" by Lucy Simon, who turns out to be the sister of the famed folk-pop singer, Carly Simon. The songs held an entrancing mysterious quality attuned to the charming children's tale. Finegan approached each song with respect for its meaning and time, with effective dynamics and ease of production. Her soprano range is firm in lowest notes, with no oft-found alteration of sound.

Though occasionally her high notes can lose their openness of tone, she hit one very high tone with stunning impact. Her singing in the "1776" songs was free and strong, with an assured and smooth flowing line.

Pianist Jon Montanus, who fears no style of music, supported all of the singers handsomely, injecting exciting dynamic energy in some of the rhythmic number of "1776" and throughout the program displaying his notable musicianship.

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