Reviews ...

Murray Kidd, Polymnia

... and guest artists triumph

by Jackie Wattenberg

Polymnia Choral Society director Murray Kidd showed his musical powers last Saturday
evening in St. Mary's Catholic Church with music by French composers Ravel and
Faure, called "Romantic Revolution." This is the kind of serious vocal music,
presented brilliantly, that drew a large and spellbound audience.

This time director Kidd expanded the Choral Society by bringing in an excellent 14-
piece orchestra, the UMass-Lowell Chamber Singers, and two outstanding soloists.

The peaceful Faure Requiem was the highlight of the program, but every selection was
performed with unfaltering musicality. There may possibly have been a little
questioning by some Polymnia members on the inclusion of another vocal group, but
the smaller Chamber Singers offered a richness of ensemble unity in three Chansons
by Ravel, later augmenting the chorus in Faure's Requiem.

The three opening songs by Faure immediately promised the stellar quality of the
evening--soprano Evangelia Leontis performed them in a voice of opulence and
unaltering sheen in her whole range, including brilliant high tones.

Here she was accompanied by an excellent pianist, Daniel Wyneken, who played each
song with sensitivity to the romantic French style of nuance and subtlety. (Years
ago there was a singer named Ameling renowned for the delicacy and smoothness of her
style in French songs, so different from Italian and German.)

Throughout the concert, Mr. Kidd stood before us describing, with ease and charm,
the music to come. He related intriguing facts about the two composers represented
on the program, noting that the earliest French art songs were composed by Faure.

Actually, little sung these days are songs by Berlioz, "Les Nuits d'Ete," composed
in 1840 for mezzo soprano or tenor and piano, later transcribed into the orchestral
work "Nights of Summer." Serious music lovers in the audience were impressed with
the quality of this Gallic evening, and look forward with expectation to Mr. Kidd's
next concert.

The Chamber Singers, 21 members, sang the Ravel Chansons in each song's style, their
tone marvelously unified almost like one voice, unique and compelling. They also had
excellent soloists--Julia Nelson, soprano; Rachel Andrews, alto; Matt Cocoran,
tenor, and Eric Aucoin, bass. The program told us that this choral group has
increased since Mr. Kidd became its conductor four years ago.

Early in the program the Polymnia chorus sang an interesting Faure song again with
the brilliant soaring soprano of Evangelia Leontis, plus added color from harpist
Franziska Huhn, Jessie Elsdorfer on double bass and Charlie Gregson, Organ.

As Mr Kidd mentioned, Faure was a very sensitive man, and he intended to write a
requiem different from those in the past by Mozart or Brahms, etc. In accomplishing
this, he composed a very peaceable requiem in legato lines and mostly easeful,
traditional harmonies.

No dramatic fast tempos or mournful sections that are so poignant in the Bach
Passions, no agitated moments as in the moving Mozart Requiem. There were solo parts
beautifully sung by Ms. Leontis and Thann Scoggin, a baritone with a distinctively
individual quality and richly shadowed low tones. We can hope to hear them again.

The mixed chorus was impressive, rising in full volume to unfaltering high
crescendos, though never dramatically troubled as in other requiems. Mr. Kidd
sustained the lovely serenity of the composer's intent, yet never losing its
momentum. All the movements flowed at about the same tempo, no sudden vivace or
climax to disturb that serenity. Still, each movement flowed with lovely melody and
retained our interest. Surprising were just a few instances of sudden shifts to
dissonant chords, provocative and stunning, more frequent in his romantic songs.

The 15-member orchestra provided essential support for this Requiem, with lovely
little violin solos by Daniel Stepner. This was a concert of many voices, many
choices that were managed impressively by the young conductor Murray Kidd.

Reprinted, with permission from the Melrose Free Press, March
29, 2012

April 6, 2012

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