Saturday night I heard Volti's concert of new choral music. Volti's 20 members are assertive singers & make a big, centered sound. Even their dissonant intervals never sound harsh. Music Director Robert Geary gestures clearly, & entrances & cut-offs are square-edged. The concert also featured Ancora, an 11-member chorus of teenage girls drawn from the Piedmont East Bay Children's Choir. They performed one piece in the middle of each half of the program.
Of the 5 composers on the program, 4 were in attendance. Ken Ueno described the trajectory of his A lettrist bottle in terms of his experiences of displacement & of life's traumatic shocks. He suggested that the piece's final counterpoint expresses the idea of American exceptionalism. The work begins with hard, short clusters of notes but then develops into a sustained texture. The chorus hisses at one point & hums quietly at the end. The text is by the composer, but I could not distinguish any of the words. Ancora's graceful & polished tone was appropriate for the pretty Song-Gatherings by Eric Tuan, one of Volti's tenors. The text of Delusional Paths by Tom Flaherty sounds contemporary even though it comes from poems by Stephen Crane that are over 100 years old. The music's feeling of forward movement fits the words, & there is an overall sense of a journey. Mr. Flaherty was present to take a bow.
Other Floods by Tamar Diesendruck starts with solo voices singing single syllables which coalesce into words & dissonant harmonies. It culminates with a huge, ringing final chord. There was an extended episode of paper crinkling by someone in the audience midway through. The composer Francisco Cortés-Álvarez, looking like a college student, spoke before his 2 pieces that ended the program. Ancora gave his Galope, based on a nonsense text in Spanish, a light-hearted performance. Besides singing, they clap, hiss, click their tongues, declaim & whisper. The day on which the World didn't end has a text in English that jocularly describes the unfortunate behavior of 16th century Germans responding to an apocalyptic prophecy. It has a hodgepodge construction, with sections of the chorus often singing in opposition & solo voices popping out with snippets of narration. Before launching into the piece, members of Volti broke into laughter, but their performance was diligent & provoked light laughter from the audience. Attendance at St. Mark's Lutheran was sparse. I sat in the balcony with only 10 other people.
Robert Geary, artistic director
Pathways, Floods and Delusions
Ken Ueno: A lettrist bottle (2012, World Premiere)
Eric Tuan: Song-Gatherings (2012)
Tom Flaherty: Delusional Paths (2010)
Tamar Diesendruck: Other Floods (2010)
Francisco Cortés-Álvarez: Galope (2010
Francisco Cortés-Álvarez: The day on which the World didn't end (2012, World Premiere)
Saturday, May 5, 8:00 PM
St. Mark's Lutheran Church