Friday, June 08, 2018

Voices of Music with the San Francisco Girls Chorus

Thursday night I attended a concert of the Berkeley Festival & Exhibition featuring the San Francisco Girls Chorus & Purcell's Dido & Aeneas. The program opened with 2 Vivaldi concertos, performed by the Voices of Music, an early music ensemble using Baroque instruments. The 13 musicians, plus conductor Hanneke van Proosdij at the harpsichord, had good rapport & listened to each other well. Their playing was cute & spirited. Violinist Alana Youssefian was soloist for the Concerto in D Major. I assumed that she improvised her cadenzas, which were appropriately fast, pointed & showy. The audience was so impressed that they applauded immediately after the 1st movement.

Valérie Sainte-Agathe led about 35 members of the The San Francisco Girls Chorus in 2 short contrasting works by Porpora & Vivaldi. The chorus sang from memory & sounded well-rehearsed & grounded. After intermission the chorus was featured in an arrangement of Dido & Aeneas for all female voices, apart from the role of Aeneas. The performance flowed smoothly. Solo roles were taken by members of the chorus, who sang & acted capably & projected the text clearly. It was nice to hear how distinct each of the young voices sounded, especially in contrast to the 2 adult soloists. The chorus ambled around the orchestra while singing one number, then during the final chorus they promenaded into the auditorium & handed out long-stemmed roses to the audience, eventually singing to us from the back of the hall.

Mezzo Mindy Ella Chu has a strong, sturdy voice & was a stern Dido. Baritone Jesse Blumberg has a lovely warm voice, slightly dark but burnished. His singing was tasteful & expressive, & he conveyed a variety of emotions throughout his brief appearances.

The audience was eager & appreciative, & it seemed like there were many parents in attendance. The performers received an enthusiastic standing ovation, & there was a very pleasant mood all around at the end of the show. Though the audience was quiet & attentive, someone's metal water bottle fell over with a clang at the end of one of the instrumental numbers in Dido, as if on cue. As were leaving, my concert companion pointed out that the next concert was about to start at 10pm, so these Berkeley Festival audiences must be dedicated lot.

§ Berkeley Festival & Exhibition

Voices of Music with the San Francisco Girls Chorus
Hanneke van Proosdij & David Tayler, directors

Concerto for strings in G Major "alla Rustica" RV 151
Antonio Vivaldi (1678-1741)

Concerto in D Major RV 212 "fatto per la Solennità della S. Lingua di S. Antonio in Padova"
Antonio Vivaldi (1678-1741)
Alana Youssefian, baroque violin solo

Nunc dimittis
Nicola Porpora (1686-1768)
Valérie Sainte-Agathe, conductor

Laetatus sum RV 607
Antonio Vivaldi (1678-1741)
Valérie Sainte-Agathe, conductor

Dido & Aeneas
Henry Purcell (1659-1695)
Soloists: Jesse Blumberg and Mindy Ella Chu

Thursday, June 7, 2018, 7:30p
First Congregational Church, Berkeley

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