Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Best of Serenade! 2016

For the past few years, I have made it a point to see the Best of Serenade! concert organized by Classical Movements at the Strathmore each June. The concert is a mixture of a capella groups and choirs from around the world, and each year is different. Here's a break-down of this year's concert.

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Tucson Girls Chorus
The first song this group performed was Christine Donkin's "Magnificat," which was really beautiful. The soloist had an amazing voice, and I was really blown away! Next up as Moira Smiley's "Si Verias a la Rana" ("If You See a Frog"), which was fun; the program didn't include a translation of the lyrics, which was odd since they included translations for several other songs. Simon Wawer's "Keep on Singing" was their last song, which they performed well, too.

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Koris Logos
This all-male group from Latvia was your standard male choir. Their performance was kind of boring, and I have to admit I fell asleep during parts of it. They changed their program at the last minute, so I cannot tell you which songs they did or did not sing (since none of them were in English). But you can get the general idea from this video:

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Kobra Ensemble
This group gave the most...shall we say, unique performance. I was glad that someone came on stage beforehand to prepare us for the odd show we were going to see, otherwise I would have turned up my nose at the whole thing. All of the women wore matching black bobbed wigs and black onesies (not a good look). They walked in from the back of the concert hall, and that song was okay. But once they got on stage, all of that changed. They put red lipstick on in front of us, making odd noises with each movement. Then they started "arguing" in nonsense sounds, the most memorable being the "angry" one making vehement "vroom vroom" noises. Then they all sat down on chairs on stage and started talking like Valley Girls (their impression of American women?). I think they called what they were doing "sound poetry," but really, it was just plain weird.

Although I could not find any videos of the performance I saw, you can listen to their music on the group's YouTube channel.

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Ensemble Planeta
After the intermission, this group from Japan was next. They sang "Sakura Sakura," a traditional Japanese song about cherry blossoms. They also sang pieces by Bach and Brahms. They weren't particularly memorable, but each woman definitely had her own unique sound, which I appreciated.

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Morgan State University Choir
I will admit that I was hoping for a true Gospel choir when I heard that the choir from Morgan State University would be performing. While they did sing religious songs like "You Must Have that True Religion" and "Jesus Will," they did not have the energy that I was expecting. They had one singer who sounded like she should be performing in an opera!

Ensemble Musicaficta
This group from Italy also changed its program, so I cannot tell you what songs they sang. But here's a video so you can hear what they sounded like:

After all of the groups performed, they all returned on stage to sing together (although the group from Morgan State was not included for some reason...), with some people wearing leis (why?). They sang "Untraveled Worlds," which included lyrics from Alfred Lord Tennyson's poem Ulysses.  And although they had only just learned it, the group sang "Bogoroditse Devo” from the Rachmaninoff Vespers as if they had been singing together for a long time! It was quite impressive and a nice culmination for the entire performance.

Here's an article about the event from the Washington Post.

Click here to read my blog post about last year's performance.