Showing posts with label Delaware Valley Chorale. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Delaware Valley Chorale. Show all posts

Thursday, May 15, 2014

DVC Celebrates a Legacy

By Guest Blogger, Christine Facciolo
Christine holds bachelor’s and master’s degrees in Music and continues to apply her voice to all genres of music. An arts lover since childhood, she currently works as a freelance writer. 

You don’t have to be an Anglophile to know that the Western choral tradition owes an enormous debt to Britain. From the Renaissance to today, works by British composers have become the mainstay of the world’s choral repertoire.  

The DelawareValley Chorale dipped into the vastness of this centuries-old tradition to close its 2013-14 season on Saturday at The Episcopal Church of Saints Andrew& Matthew in Wilmington with a concert titled “The English Choral Legacy.” The sound was so glorious and the program so well-chosen that one only hopes the group will revisit this literature in the not-too-distant future.

Two works by composer C. Hubert H. Parry bookended the concert. Hear my words, ye people, was composed for the Festival of the Salisbury Diocesan Choral Association and was first performed in the Salisbury Cathedral on May 10, 1894. This extended anthem was meant to be sung by a gathering of parish choirs so the choral parts are within the reach of most choirs. The more technically demanding music is reserved for the soloists and organ. Soprano Lauren Conrad Giza, baritone Bill Gross and organist David Hearn did not disappoint. The final section of the quarter-hour work featured the SsAM Choral Scholars, with the resulting contrast of choral sonorities suggestive of a choral “concerto.”

Blest pair of sirens, Parry’s rip-roaring setting of John Milton’s poem Ode to a Solemn Musick concluded the concert. The highlight of the piece is the “big tune” to the words "O may we soon again renew that song” which spreads from the sopranos to the whole choir, then turns into fugue on "To live with him," which again reverts back to a homophonic texture of the final bars. The performance was one magnificent arch of music, bringing the audience to its feet with calls for an encore.

The other major piece of the first half was Come ye, sons of art, Ode to the birthday of Queen Mary II in 1694, by Henry Purcell, arguably Britain’s greatest composer. Soprano Conrad Giza and baritone Gross were joined by countertenors Augustine Mercante and Daniel Moody, whose superb voices, diction and style were a delight.

The balance of the concert included four madrigals ably executed by the SsAM Choral Scholars. The Chorale returned after the intermission with three songs by Arthur S. Sullivan, perhaps better known for writing a few operettas with a partner named Gilbert. The 20th Century got its due with Jubilate Deo, one of Benjamin Britten’s best known and most often performed short choral works. Hearn provided a rhythmically spirited organ accompaniment to the chorale’s direct vocal phrases and the piece bubbled with the joyous mood of the words.


Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Exploring & Exalting Spirituals in Concert at SsAM

By Guest Blogger, Chuck Holdeman
Chuck is a regional composer of lyrical, contemporary classical music, including opera, orchestral music, songs, chamber music, music for film, and music for educational purposes.

The fourth annual spirituals concert at Wilmington's  Episcopal Church of Saints Andrew and Matthew was heard by a large and appreciative audience on Sunday evening, January 26. Led by the church's music director David Christopher, the varied program featured choral music, two vocal soloists, The Chamber Choir of the Wilmington Children's Chorus, as well as Christopher performing organ solos. His relaxed presentation of each piece kept the whole audience in his hand, providing fascinating background about the music's African-American roots, including the Go Down Moses organ fantasia by the late Nigerian-American composer Fela Sowande, who left no device untried, from Bach to Max Reger, from tragic to triumphant.  

Included was a nod to the choral tradition of Fisk University — Rockin' Jerusalem by John Wesley Work III. The program also included masters of the genre Harry T. Burleigh (the sung version of Go Down Moses) and William Grant Still (Here's One). While most of the selections were part of the older spiritual tradition, one selection was, in Christopher's word, "gospelized," Mark Hayes' dancing version of This Little Light of Mine. The evening's two soloists were the church choir's irrepressible Tina Betz and the young professional mezzo and UD graduate, Melody Wilson. Wilson possesses a rich colorful voice, especially in the middle register. This spring, Wilson will participate in the recording of Terence Blanchard's jazz opera Champion. Wilson will sing in the chorus, also serving as understudy to Denise Graves.  

The Wilmington Children's Chorus, under the direction of Kimberly Doucette, sang AndrĂ© Thomas' Keep Your Lamps, accompanied by the solo djembe drum of associate director Phillip Doucette. The young group of about 40 sang with wonderful precision and tone — even the young bass singers sounded convincing and full. The djembe part seemed to be intended to give life and variety to the many verses in slow tempo, but nevertheless came off as an add-on, somewhat out of the style of the song.  

The church choir was augmented by members of Christopher's Delaware Valley Chorale. It was a pleasure to see seasoned artists like Dana Robertson there to add luster to the music. Audience participation was also part of the mix, and Clayton White's arrangement of Ain-a that Good News from Horace Boyer's African-American Hymnal (LEVAS II) was a stand out. Christopher told me afterward that he was impressed and delighted by the big sound of the audience's voices!

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Delaware Valley Chorale at the Newark United Methodist Church

Jeffrey Manns has taken on the daunting role of assistant conductor of the Delaware Valley Chorale while David Christopher is on leave and he is putting all of his energy into the task. The concert began with a haunting organ solo of O come, o come Emmanuel. The fifteen male choristers were in position as the ladies marched forward from the back of the church to join them. The antiphonal echoes in Terry Schlenker’s arrangement sometimes made it appear that various sections were starting a beat late. Schlenker’s arrangement of Let all moral [SIC] flesh keep silence had some very interesting effects with parallel fifths which evoked an intriguing oriental flavor. The organ bass line helped guide the male singers in their fugue but the high pitches from the sopranos were a bit shaky. Of the father’s love begotten went more smoothly as the choir settled in, but the final phrase by Gus Mercante came out far too loudly.

In the bleak midwinter featured Fa Lane Fields’ pure yet fully rounded soprano voice which carries well and yet retains the delicacy of a child’s voice. Lloyd Shorter’s English horn and Kimberly Doucette’s strong soprano voice had no trouble standing out above the chorus, organ and piano in Maurice Besly’s The shepherds had an angel. Witnessing the magic of laser-like musical focus by Ms. Doucette and Mr. Shorter reminded me of what making music should be.

The Giovanni Gabrielli Hodie was ruined by the singers’ efforts to sing more loudly than they could comfortably manage. Kurt Collins’ brilliant organ accompaniment had sparkling glissandi and the brass chorale (George Rabbai and Jonathan Barnes, trumpet, Timothy Soberick, tenor trombone and Barry McCommon, bass trombone) had great verve, bounce and clarity. Organ and brass were allowed to show their lively musicality as soloists in the Gabrielli Canzona per sonare No. 4.

For me the highlight of the concert was the Daniel Pinkham Christmas Cantata. It was clear that Mr. Manns had focused all of his rehearsals on this difficult piece. The pitches were accurate, the diction was outstandingly clear and the dynamic he demanded of the chorus was soft enough to allow the muted brass chorale at the end of the O magnum mysterium to be heard as a whispering shimmer.



Monday, May 17, 2010

The Creation: Music Born of the Bible

The more than 50 voices of the Delaware Valley Chorale joined together to sing Franz Joseph Haydn’s masterpiece The Creation. Accompanied by a fine orchestra, under the nimble baton of Conductor and Artistic Director, David Christopher, this all-volunteer chorus (selected by audition) graced the audience with a fabulous performance of this lively setting of one of the Bible’s most beloved and well-known passages.

Christopher’s comments about the work being a hybrid of classical and baroque styles gave me a framework for listening and digesting the work. He described the work as an amalgam of Handelian choral singing and late classical music. The architecture of the piece could be heard clearly: the orchestral part, with its resounding timpani and warm strings provided the foundation, the choral writing, layered, imitative and sometimes canonic gave the work depth. The recitatives and arias were the decoration on this structure revealing the composer’s artistically musical interpretation of the text. The duets and trios brought the structure closer to the heavens with their soaring, virtuosic joy.

Bass Alex Helsabeck sang Raphael with clarity and warm, focused sound. Each phrase was planned and executed with gentle phrasing where the text required it. Helsabeck’s voice rich and full and he handles ornamented passages with grace, singing each note perfectly in pitch. In spite of the soloist’s unfortunate placement behind the orchestra, his voice was easily heard.

Joyous was tenor Dana Wilson (as Uriel) in his singing and presentation. Like Helsabeck, he projected out over the orchestra from the back with his sweet ringing tenor. Wilson brings the athleticism of his career as baseball umpire to his performance.

Melanie Sarakatsannis, soprano, provided the “icing on the cake” in the performance as Gabriel. She sang some wonderfully ornate passages with panache and a clear bright tone, projecting confidently. Her voice was well balanced with the other soloists in the duets and trios.

The real stars were the choristers. Haydn’s multi-layered piece provides many challenges in its imitative and canonic sections. Christopher has helped them grow into a group with a lush, unified quality. Each one of the singers is dedicated, and sings from a place of joy. That is exactly what they brought to the audience, too.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Old-time religion in 'God's Trombones'

The Delaware Valley Chorale's concert Saturday night at Newark United Methodist Church was terrific -- good enough to hear again on Sunday, Nov. 22, in Wilmington.

"God's Trombones" -- a sermon in verse by poet James Weldon Johnson -- is a tribute to the fiery black preachers of the old South, arranged against traditional Negro spirituals by composer Roy Ringwald. Guest conductor Lawler Rogers and the chorus caught their visceral energy and emotional conviction.

With narrators Tina Betz as the prayer leader and Joshua Martin as the preacher, it was thrilling to hear. Betz spoke with the passion of belief, and Martin had a sonorous dignity in retelling the Creation and Last Judgment stories.

Franz Schubert's Mass in G was gorgeous, with lovely interplay in the Agnus Dei between the soloists Angelyn Robinson, soprano; David Anderson, tenor; and Jeffrey Chapman, baritone. Nancy Chronister was the conductor.

"On Green Mountains" by Steve Danyew won the chorale's 2009 composition contest. Danyew set a simple lyric praising nature to sweeping melody. The choir, led by artistic director David Christopher, rendered the mood with seamless cohesion.

Danyew, a graduate student at the Eastman School of Music in Rochester, N.Y., will attend Sunday's concert too. The program will be at Saints Andrew and Matthew Episcopal Church, 719 N. Shipley St., Wilmington.

Tickets are $20, $16 for seniors and students, $8 for children under 12. Call (302) 325-4110. Or see

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Two Chances to Hear Extraordinary Choral Music

Next weekend will be bursting with song, courtesy of two area choral groups offering two very different, yet equally enjoyable, programs.

In the first, the Delaware Valley Chorale (photo at left) performs Roy Ringwald's God's Trombone's in two venues in Newark and Wilmington. Based on the poetry of James Weldon Johnson, this powerful spiritual piece is often performed by African-American choruses. DVC condcutor David Christopher wanted to challenge the ensemble this season with more ambitious choices of repertoire. The performances will feature guest conductor C. Lawler Rogers, narrators Tina Betz and Joshua Martin, and soloists Angelyn Robinson, soprano, David Anderson, tenor and Jeffrey Chapman, baritone. Additional pieces will be Mass in G by Franz Schubert and On Green Mountains by Steve Danyew.
Saturday, November 21, 2009, 7:30 p.m.
Newark United Methodist Church, 69 E. Main Street, Newark
Sunday, November 22, 3:00 p.m.
The Episcopal Church of Saints Andrew & Matthew, 719 N. Shipley Street, Wilmington
Tickets: $20; $16 seniors (60+) & students; $8 children under 12.

To order, call 302.325. 4110 or see

The next choral program is from CoroAllegro (photo at right), led by Jack Warren Burnam. The program, entitled A Musical Banquet, is a whimsical repertoire meant to entertain audiences with a celebration of pleasures of food, drink and merriment. The repertoire includes the music of Felix Mendelssohn, Bob Chilcott and others. Chilcott's piece, Fragments from his dish, displays moving and humorous lyrics in a food theme. Another piece, Play with Your Food! by composer Paul Carey, serves up a satisfying yet unusual love story that might surprise you!
Saturday, November 21, 2009, 8:00 p.m.
Immanuel Church, Highlands, 17th & Riverview, Wilmington
Tickets: $15.

To order, call 302.652.3997 or visit

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Choral Groups Announce Audition Dates

Two local choral groups---one for children, one for adults---have announced dates for their 2009-2010 season auditions. Love to sing? Check out the below info from Wilmington Children's Chorus and the Delaware Valley Chorale. And good luck to all!

The Wilmington Children's Chorus invites children in grades 3 through high school to audition for the "Singing Ambassadors of Wilmington". Audition Workshop & Select Choir Auditions: Wednesday, September 9. This workshop is open to all interested singers and is an opportunity to review audition material with WCC staff. Auditions for returning WCC members will be held following the workshop. Call 302.762.3637 to reserve your spot. General auditions are granted by appointment: Saturday, September 12 & Sunday, September 13.

For further details, visit

The Delaware Valley Chorale will hold auditions by appointment September 8, 5:30 to 8:00 p.m. and September 12 from 1:00 to 3:00 p.m. at the Episcopal Church of Sts. Andrew & Matthew, 719 N. Shipley Street, Wilmington, Delaware. Singers should bring two (2) copies of a prepared classical solo with piano accompaniment (demonstrating appropriate range and tone). Singers must also demonstrate music-reading ability. To schedule an audition, contact Barbara Kidd at 302.234.4866 or

For further details, visit