"CROSS THE WIDE MISSOURI: MUSIC FROM THE APPALACHIA," Salt Lake Choral Artists, Libby Garner Hall, University of Utah, Saturday
A capacity crowd filled the Libby Gardner Hall on Saturday evening to hear the Salt Lake Choral Artists' concert, "Cross the Wide Missouri: Music from Appalachia." They audience was not disappointed.
It was an evening of lively tunes combined with shimmering, sometimes plaintive, melodies of Appalachia — almost a surfeit of musical delights.
As choir members took their places, a bluegrass band performed a lively prelude. Then a hauntingly beautiful rendition of James Erb's arrangement of "Shenandoah" rippled across the hall, sung by the combined choirs — 250 voices strong.
"The heartbreakingly beautiful rendition of 'Shenandoah' absolutely took my breath away!" said audience member Tana Allred.
The featured piece on the two-hour program was the Utah premiere of Carol Barnett's "The World Beloved: a Bluegrass Mass," conducted by Brady Allred.
An unlikely blend of the traditional mass form and bluegrass music, sung in both English and Latin, is accessible and simply stunning, from the soloed ballads to the beautiful harmonies and syncopated rhythms.
"Very well put together," was audience member Martha Lauritzen's take. "I loved it."
Intertwined with the expected "Kyrie," "Gloria," "Credo," "Sanctus," "Agnus Dei" and "Benedication" are ballads describing the creation of the world in very simple terms.
"They say God loved the world so dear, he set aside his crown and cast himself in human shape. …" These words sung by soprano soloist, Mary Webster-Walsh, began the "Bluegrass Mass."
Tenor soloist Chris LeCluyse introduced the Credo: "I do believe a place awaits so far across the Jordan … when we reach those mossy banks, we'll set aside our oars. …" But until then "… row on … no one rows alone."
In response, Webster-Walsh began the Credo's second refrain: "High above the mountain, when we reach the highest peak, we'll spread our wings and soar … row on, we're climbing Jacob's ladder … no one rows alone."
The piece ends as simply as it beings with the soprano soloist singing, "… blessing be upon you, upon my people."
An award-winning group of bluegrass musicians, including Mary Danzig, fiddle; Peter Danzig, mandolin; Nathan Keller, banjo; Rich Dixon, guitar; and Jim Thompson, bass, accompanied the choir.
In addition to this featured number, the evening showcased all of the Salt Lake Choral Artists' ensembles: Women's Choir, directed by Jane R. Fjeldsted; Young Choral Artists, directed by Joan Brinton and John Walker; and Chamber Choir and Salt Lake Vocal Artists Touring Choir, both conducted by Allred.
Another of the evening's many memorable moments was the Touring Choir's rendition of "My Song in the Night," arranged by Paul Christiansen and conducted by Allred. The group sang in perfect harmony, offering warm, rich, reassuring and tender worship of Jesus Christ.
A trio of tunes concluded the program: "Saints' Train," "The Water is Wide" and "Skip to My Lou" — well sung, but almost an anti-climactic ending to an evening of glorious music.
Rosemarie Howard lives in a 100-year-old house on Main Street, Springville, Utah. She enjoys creating multimedia projects. Her website is www.dramaticdimensions.com.