A Capella Choral Concert is Comedic and Contemporary

The A Cappella Choral Concert featured many Shepherd vocal ensembles in a night of spectacular performances, amazing vocals and a few surprising moments on Friday, March 28 at 8 p.m. in the Frank Center.

Some of the vocal ensembles in the “Fields of Gold” choir concert were the Women’s Camerata, Men’s Choir and Vocal Jazz.

Rob Tudor, the chair of the music department and director of vocal activities, and Erik Jones, the director of choral activities, were in charge of the concert and acted as conductors.

The Women’s Camerata opened the concert and Jones was the conductor. They were also the only choir to have musical accompaniment. Blair Boscolo and Mary Granofsky played the piano for the Camerata.

In their performance of “Hoj, hura hoj!” Johanna Leary, Antonia-Maria Hernandez-Ortiz, and Cara Hummel were the featured soloists. It was truly impressive how they were able to sustain such high notes in harmony and stay in tune along with the rest of the Camerata.

Student conductors also graced the stage during the Women’s Camerata. Kirstie Wooten and Penelope Manousoff were the student conductors and they handled the Camerata separately. The communication between the conductors and the choir was so strong that it made the performances seamless. Both conductors were graceful in their hand movements and at times it seemed as if they were strumming a harp.

For their last performance, Jones announced that it was a special one as it involved the piano taking the main role with the Camerata accompanying the piano. It was greatly shown when Boscolo and Granofsky, on two grand pianos at the same time, took the lead with a fast-paced tempo and the Camerata followed them in nearly perfect rhythm. For the rest of the night, the piano and other kinds of actual instruments were used in a limited capacity.

For the next part of the concert, Tudor acted as the conductor for the Men’s Choir. In an effort to bond with the audience, Tudor explained to them that some of the choir’s songs were in the Gaelic language and had admitted the difficulty in learning it. He even spoke the translated version of the songs in English, evoking laughs from the audience.

The Gaelic songs were different from the previous music in the night, but it was still enjoyable enough for the audience. The choir found an interesting balance of dramatic and comedic moments in the performances, as the ebb and flow tempo to the songs created a roller-coaster-type feel for the audience.

Although the concert was about the vocal ensembles, Tudor and Jones deserved praise as conductors. It was a pleasure watching those two use their hand movements and gestures. It was like watching a professional orchestra master at work. Jones seemed very animated in his dramatic hand gestures. The faster his hands moved, the more the choir was willing to match him. Tudor was more personal with his choir, creating subtle yet strong performances.

The Vocal Jazz Ensemble delivered possibly one of the best performances of the night. The octet, including Jones, performed Queen’s “Bohemian Rhapsody.” It was brilliantly arranged and performed. The audience was in shock and awe as these eight people danced in the middle of the stage and let loose.

Paul Cabell was the soloist of the group and really let his voice be heard on stage with his demanding vocals. What was truly impressive was the fact that there were no instruments at all. It was completely a cappella. The group imitated various instruments like the electric guitar. Matthew Rothenberg should be mentioned too, as his incredible high note left the audience exploding with laughter and applause.

It would be hard to follow that spectacular performance, but the Chamber Singers have their own tricks to keep the audience’s interest. In a performance that Jones described as reminiscent of the Swedish Chef from “The Muppets” franchise, “El Hambo” had a cartoonish sound complete with stomping and clapping, which was fascinating to watch.

As the night was gearing to an end, all of the vocal ensembles joined together for one last show-stopping performance of “Africa,” popularized by the band Toto and arranged by Jones, who also acted as conductor. To make the last performance even more spectacular, Whitney, McDonald and Kris Nigh provided the beatboxing portion of the song.

As soon as the beatboxing started, the electricity spread to all of the vocalists and even Jones who could be seen dancing as well. You could tell by looking at the people on stage that they truly enjoyed doing this. It was breathtaking to see all those fantastic singers and vocalists take the stage and make the night magical.

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