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Choral excellence

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Drake wasn’t the only big concert last night. The Concordia Choir, making a return engagement to the Shaghoian Hall, gave a soaring, gorgeous performance. There were times I found myself so transfixed I’d realize I hadn’t moved a muscle during a song, so fully was my body and mind encompassed by the music.

Concordia, conducted these past 26 years by choral superstar Rene Clausen, is riveting because of its perfect blended sound. The male and female voices become something almost otherworldly, as if the 70 singers have become one organism. In a breathtaking rendition of Alexandre Gretchaninoff’s “Our Father,” the soprano line was a marvel, pure in tone and floating almost weightlessly, like dandelion petals in a breeze. The final deliciously enunciated consonant in the “Amen” concluding the piece hung like the last rays of a sunset, the “N” a thing of beauty in itself.

The program featured a lineup of the kinds of works at which Concordia excels, from the Renaissance to 20th century composers, including pieces by Bach, Morton Lauridsen, Grieg, Schuman and F. Melius Christiansen.

Among my favorites: Lauridsen’s “Sure On This Shining Night,” which reached nuanced heights of intensity, the “Soldier’s Chorus” from “Faust,” in which the choir’s men pounded out rock-solid vocals, and Rossini’s “I Gondolieri,” performed in period costume, which offered a jaunty tribute to the Romantic Era.

Clausen is one of the most mesmerizing conductors I’ve ever seen, and it’s a pleasure just to watch him immerse himself in a piece of music. In an exquisite “This Little Light of Mine,” arranged by Paul J. Christiansen, Clausen used his arms as if he were actually moving blocks of sound around, like a human version of a forklift carefully positioning building materials. Clausen and his singers share a rapport that makes it seem as if they’re an extension of his own voice.

The audience gave a standing ovation to a charming spiritual, “Ain’t Got Time To Die” — I wish I had the soloist’s name to give out a shout-out — that elevated the concert even higher, from technical brilliance to the realm of pure joy. Near the end, Clausen took the time to praise the acoustics of the Shaghoian (and its architect, Ed Darden, a concert sponsor), calling the hall one of the Top 2 in terms of acoustics he’s ever performed in over his long career. That’s high praise, indeed. To listen to such a fine choir in such a great hall made for an unforgettable combination.

Responses to "Choral excellence"

Paul Hindemith says:

The soloist was sophomore Christopher Kenney.

Carol Maul says:

Donald — Thank you for your wonderful review and for your support of the Concordia Choir. Your background is such that you know real quality when you hear it, and it is great that you so ably express what that quality is.

Your blog appeared when we were on the busses in San Francisco, and it was read on the microphone on each bus. Made the choir’s day!! It was so great for them to hear what you had to say before their final California concert!!!

Again, thank you so much. I still remember the day in 2008 when we met with you about the Concordia — and how you immediately “got” it!! Your interest in and support of the Concordia Choir is very meaningful to the entire Concordia Choir family. You are a great person to have involved in the arts in the Fresno area!!!