Reviews ...

Energy, talent and fun

... another Polymnia season ends

by Jackie Wattenberg

Our music Season ended on (a recent) Saturday night with Polymnia Choral Society’s well-attended annual Pops Concert in Memorial Hall.

There were more – and good – soloists than I recall before, mostly members, and all so very good! Also attention to winners of the Polymnia’s Spotlight on High School talent. Here Gerard Fresca won quick applause from his warmly intoned “I Dreamed a Dream” from “Les Miserables.” He seemed to have a nice deep-toned sound – a baritone?  And a little later, high schooler Francesca Rizzo smiling and singing prettily into “Part of Your World” from “The Little Mermaid.”  Both songs by Stephen Schwartz, for whom the concert’s first half was dedicated.

And later in the program, another Spotlight winner, this time a persuasive violinist, Dygbert Jean, who made “Janna” from “Sweeney Todd” into a fine recital piece.

As usual at these Pops, conductor Murray Kidd joked and chatted with his receptive audience. That audience, as usual, was responsive and peppy to his performers. Kidd is clever at varying his programs, but concentrating this night on two composers – Stephen Schwartz and Stephen Sondheim.

The chorus was peppy and well balanced, peppiest when three men turned comedians in “Everybody Ought to Have a Maid’ – well, who could deny that? They conveyed the message with twists and turns and imagined pots and pans – all done with ease that put over their act – although they had had just a splinter of rehearsal time. Good fun – Wayne Leslie, Karl Ocher and Mike Margolis.

The music from Les Miserable by Stephen Schwartz was moving and dramatic, expressing the depth and sadness of that tale. Songs such as “Meadowlark,” “Day by Day,” “ Just Around the River Road,” “The Spark of Creation,” and “When You Believe”  show the variety of his inner thoughts and were well presented to the welcoming audience. The chorus was very alive, and in good form.

Among the many fine soloists were Kerry Donovan and Katrina Faulstich, whose duet “Because I Knew You,” was charmingly done.

Since his songs are not among my favorites, I was glad to see That Stephen Sondheim moved into the second half of the show.  Serious, profound, cynical – he’s a provocative and arresting composer: “Comedy Tonight,” “Company,” the delicate-defiant tone of “Send in the Clowns.”

Liz Donaldson was charmingly expressive going “Into the Woods,” and Carl Gellar put over “Not While I’m Around” with style and conviction. Marcy Holbrook’s lovely, limpid tones enhanced “Losing My Mind,” and Steve Francis gave spirit and an appropriate bravura to the program’s final song, “Being Alive.”

Since last winter’s performance had highlighted the singular beauty of the men’s voices, I was disappointed not to hear more of them in this performance. Maybe next year.

The color of a few instruments, and lively dashing all over her piano by Dorothy Travis, added greatly to the enjoyment of the evening. The sometimes blasting of sound in Memorial Hall reminds of the fine acoustics in St. Mary’s Church where this chorus often performs, as in their winter performance.

The cruel snows of winter prevented some chorus members from going to rehearsals, so the chorus is a bit smaller. But still impressive, in any season

Reprinted with permission from the Melrose Free Press June 18,2015..

July 3, 2015

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