Reviewed by David L. Schriber
Among the many free musical events on the Binghamton University campus is the annual spring concert of the Harpur Chorale and Women’s Chorus. The treble-voice chorus, conducted by Danielle Sisson, and the mixed-voice chorale, conducted by Peter Browne, are the university’s select choruses of approximately two dozen singers each. On May 6, the two ensembles offered “Choral Florals,” songs themed around flowers and clouds, birds and bees, and springtime love. The hour-long program went quickly and provided a light-hearted escape for the evening.
The Women’s Chorus opened the program with songs in French and German by Debussy, Brahms and Fauré. Robert Muller added a nicely balanced French horn to William Lawson’s piano accompaniment of James Mulholland’s “Nobody Knows This Little Rose.” From a keyboard, Lawson delivered a slightly loud accordion-sound accompaniment to Joan Szymko’s “The Roses” as the chorus echoed cascading phrases of “a rose is a rose is a rose.” Soprano soloist Victoria Cannizzo and three men from the Harpur Chorale joined the ensemble for Aaron Copland’s “An Immorality,” a lively piece in the style of a musicale.
Harpur Chorale proved the maxim that “sometimes less is more.” Never rising above a mezzo forte dynamic and sometimes diminishing below pianissimo, the 25 voices made their program flow with dynamics. The chorale’s segment opened with a delicate Chinese piece about a jasmine flower. The major work was Morten Lauridsen’s “Les Chansons des Roses,” its five movements alternating between tongue-tripping lines and long sonorous passages (familiar in the composer’s “O Magnum Mysterium,” written a year later in 1994) with leading tones in the bass, vibratoless high soprano lifting over the top. Student Tahnee Fallis stepped out to conduct the ensemble with effective dynamics in Darmon Meader’s “That Ever I Saw.” Browne returned to lead a cute folk tale called “Ballad of the Green Broom,” set to music by Benjamin Britten.
The university offers many enjoyable smaller concerts and recitals in addition to its major programs. The only truly unfortunate aspect of these free (or low-price) performances is the BU Music Department’s struggle to attract more people to the audience than there are musicians on stage. More students and community members should take advantage of this good deal. (Hey, I can still remember my undergraduate years, looking for cheap entertainment for a date. A little concert like this is just the thing to begin a fine spring evening with someone special.)