The Long Beach Chorale ended its 2010-2011 the other day at Grace First Presbyterian Church with a program called “Music of the American Stage,” and a good time was had by all.
Led from the keyboard, mostly, by guest conductor Bob Gunn, who is the group’s regular accompanist, and ably assisted on harp and flute by Brian Noel, the Chorale and soloists from its ranks delivered a generous, lively and varied program lasting close to 90 minutes to a large and appreciative audience which included artistic director Eliza Rubenstein.
The songs ranged from the familiar (“Summertime,” in an effectively bluesy choral arrangement) to the not so much (“Pretty Young Men,” from a show called “A … My Name is Alice,” delivered with humor, energy and style by the delightful trio of Lisa Pan, Kimberly Hall and Denice Pearlman).
Two fine tenors, Jim Howeth and Aaron Forbes, did a nice job with “Agony” from “Into the Woods.” The real-life married duo of Lee and Don Carlile (together for 37 years rather than the scripted 25) were just adorable in “Do You Love Me?” from “Fiddler on the Roof,” and Amaridis Quintana played “Glitter and Be Gay” to the hilt.
Speaking of Bernstein’s “Candide,” I hope someday to attend a choral concert of Broadway selections that doesn’t end with “Make Our Garden Grow,” but this was not that time. Fortunately the Chorale sounded great, and ended the afternoon in triumph.
The guys sang “There Is Nothing Like a Dame.” A substantial medley from Sondheim’s “Sweeney Todd” reminded us all what a skillfully crafted work of genius this score is.
Musical highlights included “The Promise of Living” by Aaron Copland, from his opera “The Tender Land,” and two concert selections. The ubiquitous Eric Whitacre’s a cappella “Water Night” was beautifully done, and the concert began with “Sacramento — Sis Joe,” a bouncy riff on a couple of American folk songs by Jackson Berkey, a member of Mannheim Steamroller.
You get the idea. There was a lot more. One came away impressed with the intelligence of Gunn’s programming, the excellence of his pianistic abilities and Noel’s masterful harp (and flute, in a selection from Samuel Barber’s “Vanessa”) contributions. In addition, one marveled anew at the quality of Long Beach Chorale and at the solo talent within its ranks. And finally, one was reminded of the richness of the Great American Songbook.