There is great choral music in Long Beach.
And some of it is coming from the Bob Cole Conservatory, as displayed the other night at Los Altos United Methodist Church.
I’ve written a lot about our local choruses; the Camerata Singers, Long Beach Chorale, and South Coast Chorale consistently turn out, each in its own way, a superior product. Now add to that the really excellent work being done by the University and Chamber Choirs, led respectively by Joshua Palkki and Jonathan Talberg.
But first, let’s talk about something else. This was billed as “Music for Choir and Piano,” and the cover of the program actually had it “Music for Piano and Choir.” Guk Hui Han, who was the collaborative pianist (we don’t call them accompanists any more), was a fully equal partner in the music-making on this concert, and she was terrific. Whether simulating a Baroque orchestra in the opening work by Padre Martini, expressively delivering the lush piano part in a work by Brahms, or enhancing more modern works with some insightful and technically demanding pianism, Han was on top of it all. Hers was a heroic performance.
Now the choirs. Palkki put together a well-chosen program of classics (the aforementioned Brahms and Martini) and contemporary works by the ubiquitous Eric Whitacre, rising star Dale Trumbore, the great Rosephanye Powell, and others. The witty and wild “Musical Risotto” by Jonathan Willcocks might have been a better ending to the set than Whitacre’s setting of e e cummings; it was a hilariously hard act to follow. A student narrator provided context, and supertitles provided translations and texts. (Good thing, too, because it was too dark to read the printed program.) Throughout, the choir sang with a magnificent sound, excellent intonation, and a seamless blend.
Talberg’s Chamber Choir is a superlative, award-winning instrument. Their program, of short pieces by American masters Norman Dello Joio and Dominick Argento, a splendid new work by Bob Cole alumnus Matthew Lyon Hazzard, and a catchy Afro-Cuban thing by Sid Robinovitch, began with a work by Jake Runestead, who was in attendance.
I’m not as enamored of Runestead’s music as are, say, Talberg and the Camerata’s James Bass, who program his stuff a lot, but this piece, “A Silence Haunts Me,” is well-crafted and incredibly moving. The text by Todd Boss, after Beethoven’s searing Heiligenstadt Testament, chronicles in absorbing fashion the composer’s increasing deafness. It ends in silence, with Talberg continuing to conduct while the choir stands mute; a stunt, but an effective one.
The choirs combined for the finale, Dello Joio’s exuberant “A Jubilant Song,” which brought the evening to a triumphant close.
So the Long Beach choral scene is in great shape, and the choirs at Bob Cole Conservatory are a high-quality part of it.