Music: Dessoff Choirs: We Remember

by Rebecca L. Hargrove

Magazine     >    Reviews


Written by Rebecca L. Hargrove for THE ARTISTS FORUM MAGAZINE
Edited by
Amos White V for THE ARTISTS FORUM, INC
Photos:
Carolyn Davis

REVIEWER RATINGS:
4.5 out of 5 stars

DESSOFF CHOIRS: WE REMEMBER

NEW YORK, NY (November 8, 2016) This month marks the Dessoff Choirs’ 92nd Season. At this, their opening concert, held last night at Alice Tully Hall, the choirs presented  We Remember — a concert in part memorializing the recent passing of composer Steven Stucky. The choirs was lead by their new Music Director, Malcolm J. Merriweather.

Music Director Malcolm J. Merriweather conducts the Dessoff Choirs
Music Director Malcolm J. Merriweather conducts the Dessoff Choirs
The Dessoff Choirs performing at Alice Tully Hall
The Dessoff Choirs performing at Alice Tully Hall

The choirs did a wonderful job of presenting Stucky’s compositions Take Him, Earth and Whispers. Take Him, Earth displayed lush harmonies and textures in the orchestral accompaniment and vocal passages. Modernly cinematic in sound and text imagery, it was commissioned to honor the assassination of President John F. Kennedy. Whispers presented a completely different sound calling on the Renaissance composer William Byrd’s motet Ave Verum Corpus and Walt Whitman’s poem Whispers of Heavenly Death. This piece displayed qualities of a Requiem in the style of Gregorian chant. Completely a cappella, save for a few pitches from the organ, the choirs assembled themselves on stage in place of the orchestra as the soloists sang from the top balcony of Alice Tully Hall.

One of my favorite pieces on the program was that of David Hurd’s In Honor of Martin. Originally composed for a vocal quintet, piano, strings, and percussion, this five-movement piece received its full chorus and orchestral premier this evening. This piece combined percussive jazz rhythms, tight harmonies, and texts from the Book of Wisdom and Jamie McKenzie’s Standing Tall. The fourth movement in particular left a tear in my eye as the choirs set the images of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s untimely assassination in to mind. All which is reconciled in the fifth movement leaving us with hope for the future, which King wouldn’t be able to witness.

Malcolm J. Merriweather and the Dessoff Choirs at Alice Tully Hall
Malcolm J. Merriweather and the Dessoff Choirs at Alice Tully Hall
Maestro Merriweather and the Dessoff Choirs at Alice Tully Hall
Maestro Merriweather and the Dessoff Choirs at Alice Tully Hall

The choirs finished of their season opener with Mozart’s Requiem featuring soprano Sarah Brailey, mezzo-soprano Melissa Attebury, tenor Marc Andrew Day, and bass Joe Damon Chappel. This piece truly showed the excellence of these choirs. Maestro Merriweather showed particular attention to dynamic and Mozartian style. The soloists were also magnificent, especially Sarah Brailey whose supple soprano voice rang throughout the hall.

Overall, this evening with Dessoff Choirs proved to be outstanding. Maestro Merriweather is clearly a perfect fit for this choir, with his extensive education in voice/choral conducting, attention to text, knowledge of the orchestral score, and the sheer pleasure one can witness him having as he conducts.

For more information about the Dessoff Choirs, visit: dessoff.org

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