The Ralph Woodward Chorale opened its 24th season with a pops concert Friday evening, proving that music need not necessarily be "popular" but simply approachable to be enjoyed.
This music was enjoyable, from Negro spirituals to American operetta to new arrangements of hymns and folk songs. Director Ralph Woodward was undoubtedly responsible for the clever title of the concert: "A Parade of American Music, from Boston to Berlin (Irving, That Is)."Following the poetic theme song, "Ode to Music," by Woodward's long-time friend Merrill Bradshaw, the 40 singers launched wholeheartedly into three early American anthems. Notable here were Kathryn K. Davis's simple-to-elaborate arrangement of "Ye Saints of the Lord" and a variation of the familiar "Amazing Grace," with Tricia Storey as soloist.
A jaunty ballad, "The Island Queen," told a story of taxes on tea to introduce songs of the Revolution. It's a credit to the group that every word could be understood, despite the total unfamiliarity of the song. It sounded like the voices of angels when the chorus sang the round, "When Jesus Wept." Although the snare drum played by Lyraine Jones added some novelty to "Mad Anthony Wayne," its volume almost overshadowed the singers.
Three Stephen Foster songs arranged beautifully by Edwin Fessinger allowed the prowess of pianist Michael Munson to shine.
The melody, harmony, and plaintive lyrics of "Gentle Annie" were typically Foster. The tenors were standouts here.
Contemporary American composers took the spotlight with Kirke Mechem's bouncy "Kansas Boys" - cleverly incorporating American folk songs - and Aaron Copland's "Stomp Your Foot." The challenging vocal parts, rhythms and piano accompaniment for four hands were made to sound easier than they actually were.
The audience loved Victor Herbert's "Italian Street Song," featuring soprano soloist Marie Nelson and the women of the choir. The men got their turn with a vibrant, almost barbershop-style rendition of Berlin's "Oh, How I Hate to get Up in the Morning" and "This Is the Army, Mr. Jones."
Linda Glazier's lyric soprano voice lent depth to Woodward's arrangement of the spiritual, "I Wanna Be Ready." Alto Cheri Ringger and bass Kenner Kartchner soloed on Robert Shaw's delightful "Set Down, Servant."
The program closed with a small sampling of Berlin's 900-plus songs. The choir sang "Give Me Your Tired, Your Poor" with dignity and power, then switched gears to sing Woodward's harmonious arrangements of "Remember," "Top Hat, White Tie and Tails," and "Cheek to Cheek" - all a throwback to the old Hollywood song-and-dance movies. Even Fred and Ginger were there, in the form of Lee and Linda Wakefield and other BYU Ballroom Dancers who added visual grace to the music.
Following Rulon Galloway's smooth tenor lead on "Say It With Music," the large and appreciative audience applauded until the chorale obliged with an encore of the jazz-styled "Precious Lord."