Aria Women’s Chorus presented a concert on June 19th 3:30 pm at St. Timothy Lutheran Church in Monterey. The Rhythm of Life is a wonderfully apt title for this sampling of the melodies and rhythms from no less than a dozen countries. Under the direction of Dr. Sean Boulware, these twenty-nine women provided a musically versatile afternoon. Although there were many highlights to mention, its opening and closing were terrific bookends to this musically strong program. Skipping from country to country also meant different languages and styles – not just reading the notes on the page, but the interpretation as well. Throughout the program, these women continued to convey their obvious joy in being part of this group.
The opening portrayed Moses’ sister Miriam singing as they were leaving Egypt. Zebulon M. Highben used vocal drone with an almost “rap” rhythm above to convey the poignancy of this piece in “And Miriam Sang” (Shiru L’Adonai). Percussion by Eric Braun and Isaiah Boulware on djembe and bodhran lent great support. As Boulware explained to the audience, the Karl Jenkins – he of the “Paladio” “Diamond Theme” music – “Adiemus” (from Songs of Sanctuary) was inspired by his two year old daughter’s babbling. This has a lilting repetitive melody again with cool percussion from Braun and Isaiah Boulware, definitely comfort food music.
Third on the program was a Swedish curse by Arne Mellnas titled “Aglepta. Looking at the score is at first incomprehensible since it is not written in typical notation. Indications are for whispers, spoken words, sung random notes and an occasional true choral sound. This is definitely a performance piece that this group more than efficiently handled.
French, Hebrew and Macedonian melodies followed. All the dancing joy of “Ah! Si mon moine voulat danser” (from 6 early songs of Canada) had many heads and feet keeping time in the audience. “Ani Ma’Amin” (I Believe) used the minor/modal style to beautiful effect. The next vocal gear change was to the eastern European sound in the Macedonian “Sto mi e milo.” Again as Boulware explained, this concerned a young man telling his mother that he wished they had a shop so he could watch the girls go by and with perhaps other thought on his mind. This was not in English, but the frisky mood was definitely conveyed and again with killer percussion from Braun and young Boulware. This piece was arranged by Daniel Hughes of “The Choral Project,” who was listed as guest conductor. Unfortunately, Hughes has been ill and was unable to make the performances. Closing the first half was one of two pieces arranged by Alberto Grau – “Salmo 150” with the expected Latin American rhythmic feel. Grau’s other selection was in the second half and entitled “Mata Del Anima Sola” – a Venezuelan cowboy song. Diane Ehlers absolutely owned the solo to start off as well as interspersed throughout. Chorus backup often gave the feeling of the strumming guitars in the background.
African rhythms with “can’t-sit-still music” opened the second half. Boulware programed “Bonse Aba” and “Jabula Jesu” without break in the spirited presentation. Samantha Reed was the outstanding soloist for “Jabula Jesu.” Off to Russia for the well known folk song, “Kalinka.” This typical slow to fast rhythm came off without a hitch and again with audience clapping along. A highlight of the Irish “Siuil a Ruin” was hearing Abby Warburg and Michelle Boulware do the solo work. These two voices work so well together and on opposite sides of the group made for a terrific stereo effect.
The final and stunning highlight of this program was the David Brunner “All I Was Doing Was Breathing” (from Ecstatic Songs). For this, the ensemble put music down, removed their shoes, donned a scarf and came forward downstage. This couldn’t be timelier with recent news of tragic so-called-honor-killings in India. The young girl is writing in her journal about the consequences from her family for loving the “wrong” man. Told never to see him again she responds with “I can bear on my shoulders whatever you want to say of me.” Splendid solo work from Anna Hallock coming from behind the chorus with all the strength of her voice and conviction of her response. This is one of those absolutely mesmerizing choral works that totally draws the listener in. With hand movements and foot percussion, the chorus totally conveyed not only the pathos but also the strength of the young girl’s conviction. Added accompaniment in addition to the aforementioned percussionists Braun and Isaiah Boulware was from the ever-proficient cello playing of Margie Dally. The solo cello introduction really set the dynamic for the entire work.
Also, throughout this program was the superb piano accompaniment of Michelle Galindo. She continues make it all look and sound so easy. Boulware’s choices of programming were so inviting to feel these international rhythms. How much better to understand a culture than through its music? Even without knowing a myriad of spoken languages the universal language so continually promotes wellbeing and understanding.