Orpheus Singers live up to their name

Sunday, April 14, 2019 - 8:52am

Dana Pierangeli

Dana Pierangeli Buy this photo
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The legend of Orpheus recounts the tale of a musician — the best musician of all time, according to legend. Son of the muse Calliope and taught how to play the lyre by Apollo himself, it is said his music had the ability to charm animals and make trees dance. I didn’t see any hypnotized Diag squirrels or dancing oaks, but the Orpheus Singers certainly lived up to their name. Directed by Eugene Rogers, the smallest of the School of Music, Theatre & Dance choirs put on a night of beautiful classical choir pieces that charmed their audience.

Admittedly, the concert was off to a rocky start with “Christ lag in Todesbanden, BWV 4” by Johann Sebastian Bach. Though the sections had perfect blend, flawless harmonies and angelic tone, the performance lacked enthusiasm. With few vocal dynamics and no facial expression, the first section of the concert was relatively unengaging. There seemed to be no passion for these hauntingly beautiful pieces. Though singing pieces in different languages are typically less engaging, the best performances can convey meaning even through the language barrier.

However, the enthusiasm increased as the concert progressed. The remaining two pieces, “Fern Hill” and “Five Mystical Songs” were much livelier.  Halfway through the concert, it seemed as though a switch had been flipped, and lo and behold! Dynamics! There were so many shifts in the music, designated by the sharp crescendos and decrescendos, skillfully and beautifully executed.

The many soloists throughout the evening particularly embodied those strong connections, really bringing the pieces to life. All of the singers had beautiful voices, but SMTD Master’s student Meridian Prall was particularly impressive. She didn’t just sing with exquisite tone and impressive vibrato — she performed. By the end of her solo, I had chills.

Another stand out soloist was University alumni Sam Kidd, who was featured strongly in “Five Mystical Songs” to end the concert. His powerful voice rang through the auditorium and could even rival the choir when they joined him. Some of the best parts of the entire concert were when the orchestra dropped out and the choir harmonized with hums in the background as Kidd continued his solo. Those few moments seemed almost magical.

While the concert at times wasn’t quite as engaging as it could have been, the Orpheus Singers made up for it with their incredible sound. Very rarely have I heard such a pure tone and the perfect blend between sections. If Orpheus is the best musician of all time, this choir is aptly named.