Showing posts with label Joanne Ward. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Joanne Ward. Show all posts

Friday, April 26, 2019

Sensational Singing Steals the Stage at the Music School

By Christine Facciolo
What do you get when members of the voice faculty of The Music School of Delaware come together for an evening of song? A night of “Sensational Singing.”

Sopranos Joanne Ward and Marybeth Miller, alto/jazz vocalist Maria Rusu, countertenor Augustine Mercante and bass Colin Armstrong offered a program that spanned every conceivable genre and period: Baroque, Classical, Romantic, jazz, folk and Broadway.

Ward, who chairs the voice faculty, applied her strong, crystalline soprano to a set of contemporary songs that traced the journey of a couple from their courting days (Seymour Barab’s setting of James Stevens’ poem "The Daisies” from his song cycle The Rivals) to commitment (Norman Dello Joio’s setting of Elizabeth Barrett Browning’s How Do I Love Thee) to their parting through death (Gwyneth Walker’s setting of Alfred Lord Tennyson’s Crossing the Bar).

Ward lightened the mood with Sheldon Harnick’s contemporary madrigal The Ballad of the Shape of Things. Richard Gangwisch’s piano winked while Ward’s vocal — wisely 
— played it straight. Marvelous!

Ward and Miller then combined their very different sopranos in a rendering of Lucy Simon’s Clusters of Crocus/Come to My Garden from "The Secret Garden.”

Miller returned a bit later applying her ethereal soprano to John Corigliano’s Three Irish Folksong Settings: I. The Sally Gardens, II. The Foggy Dew and III. She Moved Through the Fair. Corigliano’s “otherworldly” approach evoked a journey through an alien landscape. The songs pitted Miller’s voice against the rhapsodic line of Melinda Bowman’s flute, placing these well-known folk tunes in a new environment.

Miller showed off her versatility joining with alto Maria Rusu in an energetic rendering of Wrong Note Rag from Leonard Bernstein’s Wonderful Town.

Countertenor Augustine Mercante offered two bittersweet selections with Schubert’s In Abendrot and Alec Wilder’s Blackberry Winter, countertenor David Daniels’ signature song. Although it is a song of joy, In Abendrot is a leave-taking song, moving us to tears as it reminds us of the fleeting beauty of a sunset — and of our own mortality.

Mercante does not just sing (albeit exquisitely) a lyric so much as he lives and loves it. That depth became evident in his emotional and mature exploration of Wilder’s Blackberry Winter with its pained realization of “I’ll never get over losing you/But I’ve learned that life goes on.”

Mercante opened his set with A Chloris by Reynaldo Hahn, who as ex-lover of Marcel Proust, has much to share about separations, sentiments and remembrance.

Bass Colin Armstrong treated the students of singing in the audience with a concert rendition of Amarilli, mia bella, the most well-known of Giullio Caccini’s solo madrigals and a staple of just about every vocal teacher. It was a nice change to hear it so beautifully delivered in performance.

Armstrong also offered a rendition of the nostalgic I’ll Be Seeing You. He decided to include the rarely heard chorus, which opens with the line “Cathedral bells were tolling/And our hears sang on/Was it the spell of Paris/Or the April dawn?” An eerie reminder of what had just happened in the City of Lights two days earlier.

Armstrong’s set also included J.S. Bach’s So du willst from Aus der tiefen rufe ich, Herr, zu dir, BWV 131 which he performed with Maria Rusu.

Then it was Rusu’s time to shine and shine she did in a set of jazz classics, including On Green Dolphin Street and Tony Bennett’s signature The Good Life by Sasha Distel. Her scatting skills were amply displayed in Sandu, by trumpet great and Wilmington native Clifford Brown.

The evening concluded with an a capella performance of the soaring Make Our Garden Grow, from Leonard Bernstein’s Candide.

For more magic of music, see

Saturday, May 7, 2016

May Day Welcomed in Song with Four-Ensemble Concert at The Music School of Delaware

By Christine Facciolo
The Music School of Delaware’s Spring Choral Concert showcased the talents of four ensembles in an eclectic program at the school’s Wilmington Branch on Sunday, May 1, 2016 featuring music from church, folk and pop/rock traditions.

The Delaware Women's Chorus, led by Music Director Joanne Ward
The concert opened with five selections by Bella Voce, a 10-member choir consisting of students from Grades 2 though 8, under the direction of faculty member Marybeth Miller. If these young singers represent the future of music, we’re in good hands. The group showed its versatility with capable renderings of two Dominican folk songs, three nonsense ditties (Two Tongue Twisters and Antonio) as well as the Harry Belafonte-penned folk song Turn the World Around. Their set concluded with the traditional spiritual Twelve Gates into the City, which spotlighted their individual voices.

Next up was the recently formed Adult Jazz Choir which performs under the direction of Martin Lassman. Their segment opened with a sublime rendering of John Lennon’s In My Life  arguably the best pop song ever written. Sopranos Jackie Slavin and Kayla Holden and Bass Sam Parks offered capable solos. The group showed off its mastery of complex harmonies in a haunting delivery of The Meaning of the Blues, the much-recorded 1957 classic by Bobby Troup and Leah Worth. Soprano Slavin was joined in solo outings by Tenor Dennis Connor and Bass Robert Weiner. Individual members then showed off their improvisatory skills — including some respectable scat singing — in their segment closer Joe’s Place.

We then heard a uniquely organized program by The Delaware Women’s Chorus under the direction of Joanne Ward, chair of the school’s voice department. The group presented three sets of paired songs, each with a different take on a single concept. The first pairing — In Love/Not in Love — featured Arise, My Love and No Thank You, John. Motherhood got a turn with the nostalgic Music In My Mother’s House and Heartstrings, a musical rendering of a poignant conversation a mother has with her teen-aged daughter. Choir member Carolyn Becker provided the cello accompaniment.

The final pairing dealt with empowerment. In Lineage, a musical setting of Margaret Walker’s poem, the narrator compares herself unfavorably to the women of previous generations, while From Dusk to Dawn sings of the strength of Liberian protesting the civil war which engulfed their country until 2003. Soprano Ann Warren soloed.

We were then treated to a performance by Philadelphia-based a cappella group Vocal Motive, who appeared at the invitation of Ward. This 14-member mixed-voice ensemble under the direction of Doug Stuart was founded in 2012 by longtime friends seeking a return to the a cappella singing of their college years. The group is quickly gaining a following in the Philadelphia area with good reason: They love to sing and it shows.

The set the tone immediately with a rousing rendition of Creedence Clearwater Revival’s foot-stomping Down on the Corner and kept the rhythm moving with Jason Mraz’s immensely successful I’m Yours. They showed their softer side with Billy Joel’s hymn-like And So It Goes, became contemplative with Paul Simon’s Still Crazy After All These Years, and evoked feelings of a distant time period with Barton Hollow/Bottom of the River.

They attempted to close things out with Queen’s gospel-tinged Somebody to Love. I say 'tried' because the audience came to its feet begging an encore which they supplied with a rendition of James Taylor’s poignant The Lonesome Road.

The Delaware Women's Chorus and the Adult Jazz Choir will hold auditions in the coming months for new members, by appointment, at the Music School's Wilmington Branch, located at 4101 Washington Street in Wilmington. Call 302.762.1132 to schedule.