OK, the program was something of a grab bag, but grab bags can be fun.
What else can you say of an evening that included everything from the devotional music of Giovanni Gabrieli to Scott Joplin and "The Flight of the Bumblebee"? But such it was on Saturday's concert by the Mormon Youth Symphony and Chorus, with their special guests, the Chicago Brass Quintet.Without question the crowd that filled the Salt Lake Tabernacle thought it was fun, calling both conductor Robert C. Bowden and the quintet back for multiple encores.
First, however, they had heard things like Leonard Bernstein's "Candide" Overture, which even at a slower-than-usual tempo opened the program with a bang. And a Handel medley (incorporating transcriptions of the tenor arias "Total Eclipse" and "Sound an Alarm") that may not have found the quintet at its best, being plagued with all manner of variable tone and articulation, but did provide an impressive array of the baroque master's music.
Better were the pieces in which these five players (including two substitutions) performed in support of others, such as the Vaughan Williams motet "O Clap Your Hands," here given an exultant reading in the original 1920 scoring for chorus, organ and brass. Or Randall Thompson's "A Feast of Praise," in which the chorus may have sounded a bit less sumptuous but the brightness and clarity of their singing still registered. Especially in the mystical "Nocturne," where their youthful voices hung suspended like stars in the night.
Against that came the lyrical flow of two John Rutter anthems for chorus and orchestra, "All Things Bright and Beautiful" and "For the Beauty of the Earth." Originally for piano and chorus, the composer has said this is the form in which he prefers them. And though the tripping rhythms of the first might have been more sharply defined, given the warmth of the whole it was easy to hear why.
Nor would I have wanted to be without the brass amid the Venetian antiphony of the Gabrieli (his "O Magnum Mysterium") or Eugene Gigout's stately "Grand Choeur Dialogue," further enhanced by the all-out sound of the Tabernacle organ under Clay Christiansen.
The quintet's showcases, however, came via a brass-oriented suite from Gershwin's "Porgy and Bess" (including a Canadian Brass-style "Dere's a Boat Dat's Leavin' Soon for New York" - i.e., zesty but occasionally imprecise); a Joplin medley in which the Hawaiian "Aloha-a-ee" was interpolated not into the more appropriately named "Pineapple Rag" but into "The Entertainer"; the afore-mentioned "Bumblebee" (from Rimsky's "Czar Saltan"), which trombonist James Mattern acknowledged seemed a natural for Utah; and the latter's humorous solo work in Fillmore "Teddy Trombone."
Actually, the natural for Utah, indeed for anywhere in these United States, was Sousa's "The Stars and Stripes Forever," which predictably brought down the house. Its various sections may not always have been in sync, but the spirit was willing. And what a nice gesture to highlight the piccolo trio by bringing them center stage.
After which came the encores, consisting of the "Masterpiece Theater" theme and the finale - i.e. the "Lone Ranger" section - of the "William Tell" Overture. Which, I suppose in a convoluted kind of musical alchemy, managed to turn Silver into brass.