Being and Breath were in great abundance Sunday afternoon, March 23, at Carmel Presbyterian Church as Aria Women’s Chorus presented their spring program. Dr. Sean Boulware directs this talented group of smiling, happy singers. From their entrance into the church with Amavolovolo, the energy was apparent and infectious. While this Zulu song is a warning to stay away from an area of violence and revolvers in pre-democratic Africa, it has become a popular song at many festive gatherings in democratic Africa. Following this in the first half were songs running a gamut of styles. Concentrating on poetry set by mostly contemporary composers, a lovely “I Dreamed of Rain” by Jan Garrett and arranged by Larry Nickel nicely conveyed a dreamy sense underscored by the fine accompaniment of Michelle Galindo. The moody poetry of Paul Bourget set by Claude Debussy, wondered at the remains of “…the days when you enveloped me in a supernatural haze… “
Boulware introduced Mata Anima Sola describing it as a Spanish Cowboy Song. Diane Ehlers made the solo sound as though written for her with a fine “back up” from the choir. As a contrast, a setting of Brahms “How Lovely Is Thy Dwelling Place” arranged by Noble Cain for three-part women’s voices with Galindo handling a note-filled accompaniment absolutely soared. Rounding out the first half were selections from the popular choral composers Gwyneth Walker and David Childs. Walker, known for setting other’s poetry, set her own “My Love Walks In Velvet” as a gift to a college friend getting married. The accompaniment embodied the fine work Walker is known for in integrating the weaving lines of text and music to create the images of love as likened to colors. Childs setting of the Sara Teasdale “I Am Not Yours” evoked the haunting feeling of unrequited love.
The second half started off with a whirling dervish style of rhythmic fun by Victor Parnjoti – “Dravidian Dithyramb” – nonsense syllables meant just to tickle your fancy. Childs appeared again with a setting of Emily Dickinson’s “The Moon Is Distant From The Sea.” With the moon as woman and the sea as man, the separateness is explored then turned around to great effect. Childs then repeated the first stanza, as Dickinson did not. Perhaps full circle? Perhaps not….
The seemingly innocent e. e. cummings poem of “maggie and milly and molly and may” set by Joan Szymko belies the double meaning beyond four young girls finding treasures at the beach. “For whatever we lose (like a you or a me)/It’s always ourselves we find in the sea.” Morten Lauridsen’s lovely and very popular “Dirait-On” has such a lush feeling of the ebb and flow of the poetry. Lauridsen was honored for his birthday with a program of his works given by the L.A. Master Chorale at the recent American Choral Director’s Association conference. What a delight to be in that audience!
Again a change of style with the rousing and very enthusiastically performed “The Storm Is Passing Over” by Charles Albert Tindley with arrangement by Barbara Baker. This has become quite the staple for choral groups and cannot help but pull an audience in. The beautiful old Harry Belafonte song “Turn Around,” simply but eloquently arranged by Rene Clausen provided yet another contrast of styles. It’s especially nice to hear vocal comfort food done so well. Finishing the program of varied styles and poetry was Emily Bronte’s “I See The Heaven’s Glories Shine” set by Andrea Ramsey. This selection, along with the Childs’ “I Am Not Yours,” will be going to Carnegie Hall with Aria in June. Aria will be a select choir with a half hour set among other groups. The Julliard String Quartet will provide an accompaniment on one of their selections.
Boulware never fails to acknowledge and thank, not only his audience, but also the gifted talents of piano artist Michelle Galindo as he continues to set a high bar with his performing groups.