Tuesday, February 7, 2017

"Peace and Redemption" Draws an Overflow Audience to Elgin Art Showcase

They needed extra chairs to accommodate all the people who came to hear "A Concert for Peace and Redemption," a program of classical vocal performance with themes that celebrate love, faith and unity. The voices of Soirée Lyrique were joined by the Elgin Master Chorale Children's Chorus and grand piano accompaniment in the spacious eighth floor venue in downtown Elgin.

Tenor Cornelius Johnson displayed his theatrical acumen in delivering Handel's "Comfort Ye My People" with clear meaning as well as art, and left us wanting to hear more solos of such eloquence. At first, the dark, polished tone of mezzo-soprano Jennifer Kosharsky reminds you of exquisite contralto voices from another continent and century, but her strength and control in the upper register of Verdi's "Oh dischiuso è il firmamento" proves she can cover either part with her impressive tessitura.

No one can fill a room with sound and feeling like soprano Solange Sior, whose solos like Bizet's "Je dis que rien ne m'épouvante" are as powerfully emotive as they are gracefully musical. Baritone Aaron Wardell's concert technique was wonderfully on point in cerebral performances like "Pro peccatis" from Rossini's Stabat Mater, whose tense Latin vowels remained vibrant even at low pitch and volume. As always, the piano accompaniment of Chiayi Lee was a learned and vivid interpretation of these great works' orchestral settings — never overpowering, nor too literal.

The singers of Soirée Lyrique and the Elgin Master Chorale Children's Chorus
take a bow after "A Concert of Peace and Redemption" at the Elgin Art Showcase.

Many in the audience had come to see the EMC Children's Chorus, a 19-voice ensemble directed by Becky Narofsky. Their beautiful unisons were enlivened by part-singing, counterpoint and several fine solos. These young singers' excellent coaching was reflected in their focus and very professional bearing.

The Elgin Art Showcase is a fine acoustic space for soft timbres and small ensembles, which favored the soloists and children's choir, but its rectilinear surfaces are not selective enough for greater volumes of sound. Soirée Lyrique's powerful solo quartet from Verdi's Requiem was simply too big for the room with the combined forces of Sior, Kosharsky, Johnson, Wardell and Lee.

But the message of these classics clear. It's the finest qualities of human nature that inspire the most beautiful music, and that is ultimately what audiences want to experience: love, unity and a glimpse of the Divine.