On May 14, Hidden Valley in Carmel Valley was the setting for the annual Camerata Arts In Harmony Gala. While this is the groups’ main fundraiser, it is also an afternoon of tempting morsels and wine catered by Jeffrey’s of Carmel Valley, a silent and live auction and of course the music of these well polished singers under the direction of John Koza, Artistic Director and Conductor. What may seem a festive lighthearted afternoon – and it certainly is – does not dim the music endeavors of the Camerata Singers. Franz Schubert’s An die Musik (To Music) was a most fitting beginning reminding the audience of the noble art that transports to a better world and better times. If “I Cannot Count The Stars” with music by Eugene Butler and text by Gwen Frostic was not lovely enough, Kathy Kirkwood’s flute embroidery was more than icing on the cake. Kirkwood’s lovely liquid and seamless tone fairly floated on the music in ensemble with Pauline Troia’s always polished and assured piano.
The set of Brahms pieces covered the gamut of emotions – Sehnsucht (Longing), Nächtens (Nightly Visions), and Abendlied(Evening Song). These pieces also span the gamut of music dynamic finesse under Koza’s direction. Abendlied was directed by Kirkwood as a winner of last year’s silent auction to conduct on this program. Kirkwood showed her conducting chops as she did her flute accompaniment. Koza’s observation of another director for the Camerata Singers was like seeing his wife dance with another man!
Two favorites of Aaron Copland, “Long Time Ago” and “Shall We Gather At The River,” gave the singers yet another set of moods to cover. Another winner from last year’s silent auction to conduct was Joanne Taylor. She enjoyed herself with Copland’s “Shall We Gather…” While not a polished conductor as she admitted, she comported quite nicely with dancing hands. Portuguese was the language of the delightful Mas que nada as arranged by Steve Zegree. Laurie Anderson, alto, was the enthusiastic soloist with wonderful energy getting all the words in the right rhythmic places.
The live auction garnered many bids for getaways, dinners, and tickets for Camerata Christmas programs and again for the honor of directing these singers. Look for Kathy Kirkwood next year as another winner to conduct.
Koza himself started the second half with a solo of one of his long time favorite pieces – Leonard Bernstein’s “Simple Song.” As one of the lines goes – “Sing like you like to sing…” came through beautifully with Troia at the piano and Kirkwood on flute. What is lovelier than red roses on Mother’s Day? The rich sound of “A Red, Red Rose” by James Mulholland that followed. Then, not just singing, piano, solo, and flute talent in this group, but a choral arranger as well. Dana Abbott, Bass, arranged James Tillman’s “Life’s Railway to Heaven.” Abbott used interesting chordal moves and a final ending chord that just seemed to float. Another personal favorite followed with Ernest Charles’ “When I Have Sung My Songs To You”. This is the poignant embodiment of a love so strong and so true that singing for anyone else would not be an option.
As if there had not already been a wonderful variety of music, Koza’s sense of humor prevailed with the next selections. “Lambscapes” by Eric Lane Barnes gave the audience a turn of Mary and her lamb wandering musically through Gregorian, Handel, Schubert and Verdi. Hard not to laugh out loud at not only the amusement but also the music intricacies. Then “Musical Risotto” by Jonathan Willcocks was a musical romp through Italian musical terms sung as they are intended as markings in music scores. Cindy Davis, soprano, and Michael Russell, bass, performed absolutely hilarious solos. Rounding out the afternoon’s music was a blessing by Donald McCullough. “When In The Presence of Music” was a fitting bookend to the program reminding that “no heart can leave untouched” and “sustain you as we part.”
These singers continue to show their joy in presenting their music. Even without program notes and texts, diction and articulation are so clear that there is little doubt as to text, emotion and humor. So altogether, it was another successful Camerata Gala!