The University of Utah Singers have become a seasoned touring ensemble since Brady Allred arrived at the school to become director of choral conducting.
In the four years he's been here, the group has been to Europe twice, participating in two international competitions and taking first place in both first in France in 2005 and then last year in Spain.
Because of those wins, the Singers have been in demand across the Atlantic. And they'll be leaving for yet another European tour later this week. The monthlong trip will take them to England for a week, then across the channel to France. There they'll take part in three international choral festivals.
The Singers gave a bon voyage concert Tuesday, performing more than half of the 40-piece tour repertoire. Centered on the music of North America, the program gave the audience in a nearly sold-out Libby Gardner Concert Hall a wonderful preview of what European audiences soon will enjoy.
What stood out at Tuesday's concert was the versatility of the group. Ranging from Broadway tunes to folk songs, spirituals and sacred music, the program the Singers presented was a stunning showcase for their talents.
Under Allred, there is a professional quality to the ensemble's performances. Allred is one of the most talented choral conductors in the country today, and he knows how to bring the best out of his choir. Under his direction, they give dynamic, compelling performances that are sincere and honest, as well as engaging and wonderfully entertaining.
They opened the two-hour-plus concert with the Canadian folk song "J'entends le Moulin," then swiftly switched gears and gave a rousing rendition of the spiritual "Elijah Rock."
And that was the way things unfolded throughout the evening. Deftly blending moods and moving from one style of singing to another, there was never a dull moment. And when Allred and the Singers finally left the stage after giving a heartfelt reading of the gospel song "Shout Glory," one was left with the desire to hear more.
One of the most striking pieces on the program was Eric Whitacre's "When David Heard." One of the finest composers of choral music, Whitacre's piece is a showstopper with its effects and the manner in which he plays with overtones.Also notable was a rather dark version of the cowboy song "Ghost Riders in the Sky" and a medley of American folk songs that included a touching "Amazing Grace" and a carefree "Old Dan Tucker."