The Camerata Singers, under the direction of John Koza, presented To Pauline,…with Love on May 12 at First Presbyterian Church, Monterey. This bittersweet occasion to bid farewell to Pauline Troia – exemplary pianist, accompanist for 30+ years – was a terrific program of choral jewels. With the likes of Aaron Copland, Daniel Brimsmead, Randall Thompson, John Rutter, Moses Hogan along with arrangements by Josephine Poelnitz and Craig Hella Johnson all represented, some of the finest and most enduring works of choral repertoire were presented. Troia chose many of these selections as some of her favorites through the years. However, this was definitely a “working” tribute to Troia as she was most expertly busy at the piano. She continues to make the keyboard music look and sound effortless.
A fitting open was Franz Schubert’s An die Musik”– “You noble Art, I thank you for it.” This led to a trio of Aaron Copland’s folk arrangements; the well known and gently sung “Simple Gifts,” followed by the poignant “Long Time Ago,” and Copland’s simple but elegant version of “At The River.” Troia found “Companioned” by Daniel Brimsmead saying it reminded her of the companionship of accompanying and music ensemble. Poetry by Lucy Maud Montgomery pictures the many life ways to be thankful for companionship. Poetry by Winifred M. Letts, also set by Brimsmead, was a beautiful vocal portrait using an Irish greeting of “A soft day, thank God!” It was so easy to see this setting with soft rain, smells, sights and sounds from a woodland path. The heart wrenching “Requiem” by Eliza Gilkyson arranged by Craig Hella Johnson was written after the 2004 tsunami with all “homes gone,” “loved ones taken,” world…shaken.” Beseeching “mother mary” to come left the listener with the unresolved cadence – left hanging as so many lives were in the devastation.
Splendid vocalist Leberta Loral led the way in another of Troia’s choices – “R’tzei.” The text is from the Shemone Esre known as the Amidah. A vocal one-eighty followed with Copland’s lively and infectious “Ching-A-Ring Chaw.” This listener was certainly ready to get up and dance! Leberta returned to do the vocal solo honors in “City Called Heaven” as arranged by Josephine Poelnitz. Even though characterized as a ‘sorrow song’ the feeling of the “poor pilgrim of sorrow” leads the listener to think that he will finally “make heaven my home.”
A trio of Randall Thompson’s most familiar began with “The road not taken” with poetry by Robert Frost. This speaks of choices and which road to follow. “I took the one less travelled by, and that has made all the difference’” is likely one of the most recognized poetic lines. Using bible texts, the Thompson setting of “The Last Words of David” provided uplifting vocal lines befitting the text. The third of the pieces was a setting of “The Lord is My Shepherd” – Psalm 23 – probably recognized even across religious lines. The accompaniment for this selection was more like a concerto with the piano as the solo instrument and the chorus as the orchestra. It goes without saying that Troia more that ably handled the intricacy and challenge of this accompaniment.
Rounding out this terrific program was John Rutter’s “A Gaelic Blessing.” Again, this was an uplifting musical wishing of peace. The faces and voices of these singers so embodied this message it could be personally felt. Finally, not just any spiritual, but Moses Hogan’s “Music Down In My Soul.” This so exemplifies the spirit of The Camerata Singers, and any listener would feel this personal connection. Much applause ensued as Koza recognized this band of merry music makers along with Loral and, of course, Pauline Troia.
Save the date – more from the Camerata Singers can be heard December 14-15-16 in their annual Christmas with the Camerata Singers.