Director John Koza
It’s that time again; that time where every choral group whips up its own way of saying Happy Holidays and we wish you the very best! Most do so with great fanfare and lots of relatives in the audience. Isn’t it nice to know that some local ensembles have a reputation of always delivering a first-rate, interesting and entertaining evening of sound that is good for the ears, heart and soul? The Camerata Singers have shown, once again, that, like Santa Claus, they deliver.
Friday night, St. Paul’s Episcopal Church in Salinas was the site for their most recent event. How nice it was to be greeted by very young, polite children (probably 3-7 years old) who handed out programs and a sweet “Happy Holidays.” Thank you!
The program itself was entitled A Day for Dancing (no one actually danced but the music sure did) and featured a varied list of mostly Spanish and English with one Poulenc, an African piece and a world premiere by local Camerata soprano, Julia Turner. John Koza, once again, set the mood for a wonderful holiday season. The concert will be repeated on December 18, at the Carmel Mission at 8 pm, and on December 19, at the First United Methodist Church, in Pacific Grove, at 3 pm.
The performance began with Riu, riu, chiu (Spanish, 16th century) that was rousing and rhythmic and featured fine solo moments by Jeff DeMarco, Robert Ramon and Michael Russell. Two subsequent pieces were “The Shepherd’s Carol” by John Jacob Niles and “March of the Christmas Children” by Sebesky. The Niles could have used better diction but the Sebesky made up for it with a solid choral sound and fine balance. The very difficult Salve Regina by Francis Poulenc was well performed. Here the ensemble showed its true musicianship and capabilities. Koza’s ensemble never shies away from a challenge.
Next on the program was another “The Shepherd’s Carol” but this setting was by Chilcott. It is beautiful and begs for the singers to sing out more as the church sometimes tends to swallow the sound and make the ensemble seem far away. This piece could have used more volume. More Spanish rhythms and complexity followed with two carols by Carter, “Spanish Lullaby” and “Spanish Carol”. These two were the highlight of the evening thus far and were very satisfying with a beautiful solo by Tonya Legasi. Her voice was lovely.
The first half ended with more rhythmic dances and more fine execution in “Carols of the Nativity” by Alwes. The Coventry Carol was exquisite with featured moments by both the men’s and ladies’ sections and ended with nature providing a wonderful compliment of rain on the roof of the chapel. It was magical.
The second half presented nine dances by Lloyd Pfautsch called “A Day for Dancing”. These songs were accompanied by the fine trio of Karen King, flute; Claire Horn, oboe; and Jane Orzel, bassoon. The dances weaved in such well-known melodies as “Lo How a Rose Ere Blooming” and “Because All Men Are Brothers.” The pieces were sometimes haunting, sometimes almost sea shanty in nature, at times stunning, at times just flat out fun. All were performed wonderfully especially “The Dance of Adoration” and “The Dance of Gifts.”
Leave it to Koza to save the best for last. The African “Betelehemu” featured percussion by members of the ensemble and a smiling, engrossed and enthralled ensemble that delighted.
Lastly, we were treated to the world premiere of a setting of Silent Night by Camerata soprano Julia Turner. The piece was beautiful, charming and worthy. There is nothing like taking pride in your “family”.
Soapbox: I would like to say a word about John Koza. Koza is known for bringing to his audiences a mix of traditional and rarely performed pieces as well as introducing composers you have never heard of and music you won’t soon forget. That is what the audiences see and hear. What they don’t see is the amount of hours spent in seeking out and selecting music; in studying the scores and preparing for and running rehearsals. Most importantly, he inspires his singers to put in the time and make music that you will cherish. Art conceals Art. Well done, Maestro.
Reg Huston has been a concert soloist and has performed leading roles in opera and musical theater throughout the greater Monterey Peninsula for over thirty years.