Saturday, December 21, 2013

Wrong, wrong, wrong!

What a difference a different concert hall makes. Or a different set of acoustics. Or a different conductor.

This afternoon David and I went to the Divine Word Chapel in Northbrook, Illinois to hear Music of the Baroque perform their Holiday Brass and Choral Concert. 

First of all, I had thought that this concert was to be Mendelssohn's Elijah. Wrong! That will happen in the spring.

Second, I thought that Jane Glover would be conducting.  Wrong! It turned out to be Paul Agnew.

Third, it was way the hell north of Chicago at the Divine Word Chapel which is in some sort of Catholic school.

Other than that...

The chapel is within the school and has strange acoustics, which I will deal with later. The program was an esoteric amalgamation of music ranging from Praetorius to Francis Poulenc, which in itself is a great idea.

My problem was with the sound the choir was making. I loved the way they sounded under Jane Glover in Bach's St. John Passion earlier this season. I hated the way they sounded, especially the sopranos, in today's concert. The sopranos were using a loud, forced, straight sound that was very ugly and un-characeristic for the music they were singing. Under Jane Glover they sounded like angels. Today they could have done brain surgery with the sharp, straight, piercing tone that came from the section.

The program itself ranged from Gabrieli to Poulenc and was programatically interesting. The acoustics of the chapel were a problem. When the choir sang from the chancel, the reverberation in the church did strange things to the sound. Instead of adding an additional lengthening of the sound at the end of a phrase, it simply blurred everything together. When part, or all, of the choir move into the balcony, the sound was much better without the haze that affected it when singing from the chancel.

Apparently, this is the type of sound the conductor likes. Bring back Jane Glover!