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A 'wonderful' Southern Chorale passes through

Published:Saturday | January 15, 2011 | 12:00 AM
The Southern Chorale University of Southern Mississippi in concert at the UWI Chapel, Mona, on Sunday. - Winston Sill/Freelance Photographer

Michael Reckord, Gleaner Writer

Asked what she would tell her mother later about The Southern Chorale concert in Holy Trinity Cathedral, North Street, which she was attending on Monday afternoon, a primary school student said, "It was wonderful." Her classmate chimed in with, "It was amazing."

Judging by the frequent applause and occasional cheering, the opinion of the two St George's Primary School girls was shared by hundreds of patrons who attended that concert as well as the one that had been held at the University Chapel, Mona, on the previous evening.

Hosted by the University Singers, the Southern Chorale, consisting of some 50 Voice majors at the University of Southern Mississippi, also sang at other venues during their stay in Jamaica.

The first was last Saturday at St John's Methodist Church in Montego Bay.

A music workshop planned for students of Montego Bay high schools had to be cancelled because of the group's delayed arrival in the island but a smaller piano workshop led by music professor Dr Richard Steinbach, who accompanied the chorale, was held.

Giving the Mona concert's audience an unprogrammed treat, Dr Steinbach and the chorale's regular accompanist, graduate student Jonathan Rodgers, played together on the grand piano. Their choice was the hymn Praise to the Lord.

University Singers director Franklin Halliburton told The Gleaner of the mutually enjoyable getting-to-know-you session the singers and the chorale had earlier in the day on the Mona campus.

Each group sang items from its own repertoire, Halliburton said, and to climax the get-together, all members joined hands and sang Marley's internationally known anthem One Love.

While praising the chorale for its discipline and musical sensitivity, Halliburton said it would be good if similar choirs could visit Jamaica and have workshops with Jamaican choirs.

"It could be mutually beneficial," he observed.

Beautifully executed

In the chapel on Sunday, Halliburton conducted the University Singers in two beautifully executed pieces, Doluri, a Russian song, and the popular I Believe. The harmony, rich tone and general excellence of the items led to enthusiastic applause.

The chorale's contribution to the concert was given equally hearty applause. Sung with an exquisite purity of tone and superb vocal control that augured well for the students' academic grades, the pieces were, in the first half of the Mona programme: Alleluia (Sven Lekberg), Ave Maria (Franz Liszt), She Walks in Beauty (David Foltz), Ukranian Alleluia (Craig Courtney), In the Beginning (Nancy Hill Cobb), and Three Motets, Op. 38 (Charles V. Sanford).

In the second half of the concert, two a cappella groups, one male and one female, extracted themselves from the larger Chorale to sing.

The male ensemble, named The Spirit of Southern, sang two religious pieces and one secular item, Brown Eyed Girl.

The female group, The Spirit of Southern Belle Tones, sang the popular songs True Colours and Dancing in the Streets.

The last three pieces, sung by the full chorale, were The Old Church Song (Stephen Paulus), the traditional spiritual I Can Tell the World and Prayer of St Patrick (Ross C. Bernhardt).

Sunday's presentation at Mona was much more aesthetically pleasing than the concert at Holy Trinity Cathedral because though the cathedral is the most beautifully decorated church in the island, its acoustics are unsuitable for large choirs. When a choir the size of The Southern Chorale sings there, the echo effect causes a distortion of the sound and it's almost impossible to distinguish any words.

Words were clearer at Monday's concert when the two smaller a cappella ensembles sang, but with small groups another problem arises. Unless the listener is close to the singers, the voices may be too faint to hear. The chorale's conductor, Dr Gregory Fuller, tried to solve that problem by having the ensembles sing different songs in different parts of the large church, so that everybody got to hear at least one song properly.

To The Gleaner's question about how the trip to Jamaica had been, Dr Fuller commented on the warmth and generosity of the reception and said, "We feel honoured to be here."