We were lucky Westminster Presbyterian Church held its “Greatest Hits” concert a second time so that Wilmingtonians trapped indoors by the winter’s crippling snowfall could get another chance to hear some fabulous singing.
The excellent acoustics of the church caressed the lovely tones of these very experienced singers. The program was a mix of favorite Broadway songs, operatic areas and ensembles. On the organ and piano, Music Director Paul Fleckenstein was flawless accompanying the singers in this repertoire, quite different from standard “church music”. The large choir was dynamic and enthusiastic, enjoying every moment on and off the stage. I sat next to a chorister who whispered excitedly to me of the soloists, “We get to sing with them EVERY Sunday!”
Justin Gonzalzez’s Italianate tenor served La Donna è Mobile (Rigoletto) perfectly. The crowd -- many of them congregants and choristers -- loved his showmanship and bravado. With his full, clear baritone, Brian Carter did an excellent job with his rendition of Si può from I Pagliacci. Mezzo-soprano Ruth Bailis handled Tchaikovsky’s Podrugi milyye from Pique Dame beautifully, and was touching in Evening Prayer from Hansel and Gretel. Soprano Barbara Winchester as the Sandman made an adorable, pixie-like appearance in the scene and sang her part sweetly.
As always, I was bowled over by Diana Milburn. Her pianissimos are so elegant, her presentation so moving. Hers is a sound that harkens to a bygone era of true Bel Canto singing. In Donde Lieta Usci from Puccini’s La Bohème, her deep understanding of Mimi’s character was evident, and her command of the style was impeccable.
Wilmington needs more opera! Kudos to the singers, directors and organizations who make it happen. Check out Westminster’s website for more concert information.