Reviews ...

Polymnia Pops concert

... variety, color, fun

by Jackie Wattenberg

Reprinted with permission from the Melrose Free Press June 6, 2013.

If variety is the spice of life, Saturday night’s Pops Concert of the Polymnia Choral Society, their season’s finale, was well seasoned: an operatic tenor, a terrific jazz ensemble, Blue of a Kind men’s group, a couple of teenage girl singers, a gorgeous variety of home-made pastries upstairs in Memorial Hall and conductor Murray Kidd in a merry mood.

Mr. Kidd, a serious conductor, voice teacher and superb singer of classic songs, seemed to enjoy his moments on stage in the big hall before an enthusiastic audience enjoying the music and the hall’s air conditioning on our hot summer night.
He conducted his big chorus with unrestrained vivacity and spoke to the receptive audience with spirit and fun. Citing the need always for funding, he altered a frequent comment of fundraisers to “No donation is too big!”

This may have been a pops concert, but the heaviest applause and cheers went to a superlative young operatic tenor, Joseph Holmes from Wakefield, with lots of operatic and concert experience.

His “Bring Him Home” from “Les Miserables” was vocally stunning, his lyric tenor a full, ever-secure, lush quality, and he projected the song’s message with an air of tenderness. He was also given Bernstein’s fervently romantic “Tonight” from “West Side Story” and later he flaunted the air of male power in the vigorous “La donna e mobile” from Verdi’s “Rigoletto.”

“Blue of a Kind” is one of a kind – a group of men only, with original arrangements by Bob Eggers; a lively standout, “Walkin’ After Midnight.”

The balance of male quality voices, easy highs to resounding bass, is ever present. Gershwin’s “Summertime” from “Porgy and Bess” was handsomely sung by Richard Cooke, but rearranging Gershwin is always questionable.

Two young pretty high school girls, winners of Polymnia’s Spotlight on High School Talent, were hits with the audience.

Freshman Isabelle Miller has a voice of natural warmth, a lovely clarity, impressive in a freshman. When she wanted to inject a spark of drama she reached up with a harsh chest tone; good for pops, but on Broadway there is still a place for pure-toned sopranos.

Another winner of that contest, Lilah Drafts-Johnson, sang her own dramatic song, which might have once been called a torch song. Her voice has a calm chest tone quality, unwavering, but suddenly in dramatic climax rising in a burst of high-volume chest tone. They each won spirited applause from the audience.

Lots of solos, too many to record here. But Liz Donaldson and Lauren Busa really made “Hello, Goodbye” peppy and fun – this one by the old Beatles, Lennon and McCartney.

Before going any further, a long exciting, flamboyant trumpet swirl by Larry Pyatt interrupted the singing - beautifully! Conductor Kidd apparently saw this as both talent and color, and the trumpeter almost stopped the show!

The chorus itself took over the latter part of the program, and they sounded as if they were eager to show their stuff.  They were balanced, firm and shimmering with energy. Karl Geller added his own energy to “Come Rain or Come Shine,” followed by a couple other lively ones –“Get Happy” from Harold Arlen’s “Summer Stock” and “Razzle Dazzle” from “Chicago.” Back to the instrumentalists. Of course Dorothy Travis, who at her piano is always in the heart of the performance, supporting each singer, each choral piece.

With her Saturday night these musicians who brightened the program every few minutes: Of course, once again, trumpeter Larry Pyatt; Gary Gorczyca, clarinet; Jeri Sykes, flute and tenor saxophone; Jeremy Loudon, trombone; Bill Bounocore, guitar; Charles Gabriel, bass; Peter Struvk, drum-set and percussion; Nancy Kidd, double bass.

An extra note of great import: Mr. Kidd announced that next March Polymnia will be performing Mozart’s great “Requiem,” not only here but also joining other choruses singing it in Carnegie Hall in New York. Exciting news for Melrose, and more exciting for the members of Polymnia.

As if reluctant to leave, members of the audience rose slowly, chatting with those nearby, and then had to stroll out into the hot Saturday-night air.

July 5, 2013

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