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Arietha Lockhart

Contemporary Atlanta Composers Recital with Todd Skrabanek, Pianist
Commentary on Contemporary Music Recital by Atlanta Composers presented by coloratura soprano, Arietha Lockhart and piano accompanist, Todd Skrabanek.

Arietha Lockhart you were simply phenomenal!

If I were a music critic, I would begin by saying: Ms. Lockhart commands the stage with her amazing gracefulness combined with a bold spirit. This extraordinary coloratura soprano sang works that represented nine Atlanta Composers: Amy Leventhal, Mary Lynn Place Badarak, Douglas Tappin, Mary M. Boyle, Sharon J. Willis, Curtis Bryant, Travis Vaughn III, James Cockerham and Michael Kurth.

These composers represented diversity on all levels – which was so refreshing to see and hear. Leventhal, Boyle, Willis, Bryant, Cockerham and Kurth were all in attendance including Dr. John Knox, a Georgia State University music professor who had taught three of the composers.

It was an exciting evening to say the least. Ms. Lockhart’s command of the repertoire was more than exceptional it was virtuosic. The high tessitura was extremely challenging and unrelenting but one would never know how truly difficult the repertoire was because her interpretation, vocal prowess, crystal clear yet resonant tones and total artistry made the effort seamless. Bravo Ms. Lockhart!

Accompanying this brilliant soprano was pianist Todd Skrabanek who approached every piece with the sensitivity and meticulousness of a neurosurgeon. One can overlook the importance of a sensitive yet competent pianist. I was just as much impressed with his playing as I was with Ms. Lockhart’s singing – what a beautiful combination.

When I left the performance, I was so inspired by Ms. Lockhart’s presentation that I came home and arranged a set of Christmas Carols for her. I can attest to this one fact: No matter how much a composer writes, she/her experiences a level of euphoria and humbleness at the same time when you hear that piece performed by an ensemble or artists such as the caliber of Lockhart and Skrabanek. Sharon J. Willis --Email from Composer: Sharon J. Willis (02/20/2015)

Contemporary Atlanta Composers Recital
http://wheatwilliams.com/wordpress/arietha-lockhart-and-todd-skrabanek-february-17-2015/ --http://wheatwilliams.com (April 11, 2015)

Recommendation from Linked In- Andrew Webb-Mitchell
There are a number of recommendations/reviews on Linked In.

The recommendation from Andrew Webb-Mitchell, Composer follows: Arietha's performances have made a deep impression on me. It isn't everyday that one hears artistry at this level - she is an outstanding vocalist. What impresses me most, even beyond that world class mastery of her instrument, is the impeccable diction and insightful interpretation. I can understand every single word, every word is convincing.

This proves to me, beyond doubt, that English CAN be successful interpreted by the classical voice and vowels don't need to be distorted out of recognition. Composers dream of working with singers like Arietha.

January 26, 2014 --https://www.linkedin.com/in/ariethalockhart (01/26/2014)

Brahms Requiem, April 6, 2014 William Baker Festival Singers
Blessed and Beautiful Brahms
By Anthony Rodgers
KCMetropolis.org: Kansas City's Online Journal of the Arts.

"In 1868, Brahms added what is now the fifth movement, and many consider this inclusion to be due in part to the earlier death of the composer’s mother. Words of delicate comfort from soprano Arietha Lockhart in this movement seemed to float from another realm." --http://kcmetropolis.org/issue/april-9-2014/article/blessed-and-beautiful-brahms (04/08/2014)

Lament
Re: Music

Your voice is ravishing --- that's a word I don't use lightly --- your intonation is exactly right --- but most of all, I love the sensitivity to text and/or to phrase and feeling/mood that you impart when you sing --- plus your warmth toward the audience. I consider you one of the premiere singers of our age (please know that I don't say this in anything more than the utmost sincerity.) Thank you for performing "Lament" so beautifully and I would be honored if any of your Coloratura Soprano friends would like to perform it. They can contact me at:
Carol Worthey, Composer

http://www.carolworthey.com

Email: carol@carolworthey.com

Carol Worthey HOMEPAGE | Worthgold Music
www.carolworthey.com --From Composer Carol Worthy by email (March 14.2010 5:42 p.m.)

Motley Wedding
Bill Motley’s Phone Message Transcribed following his daughter’s wedding May 9th 2009

Hi Arietha, Bill Motley calling,

I just want you to know that your singing and presentation was just out of this world! It exceeded our expectations and it was wonderful. I know your ears were burning all night because all the people at the reception were just talking about how wonderful you were and a lot of folk who appreciate classical music just thought you were magnificent ..so I just wanted you to know and anytime… if you need some sort of referral or anything just let me know and we’ll be glad to recommend you to anyone.

Thanks ever so much it was a great wedding and people haven’t stopped talking about how wonderful you were.

Thank you very much. I hope to hear you again soon.

Bye-bye. --Bill Motley via Telephone (May 12, 2009)

Highlights from The Creation CD, Michael O'Neal Singers

Highlights from The Creation-Music Ministry Roswell United Methodist Church...with Georgia Sinfonia and soloist Arietha Lockhart, Oliver Sueing, and David Rice... Michael O'Neal Conductor. For soundbites and information on purchasing visit http://www.mosingers.com/recordings/creationprognotes.html --MOSingers.com audio clip menu (Recorded March, 1999)

Augusta Choral Society and Festival Americana Orchestra
Choral performance lively, if not always clear

Web posted March 12, 1999


By Donna Branch
Correspondent

The Augusta Choral Society's Festival Americana was a moving evening of 20th century American music.


The first part of the March 6 program at Sacred Heart Cultural Center was Randall Thompson's Frostiana, a setting of Robert Frost poems. The suite of seven choral art songs captures the melancholy nature of Mr. Frost's poems splendidly. Under the baton of conductor/director Melvin Brown, the Augusta Choral Society performed the work reasonably well.

While many people would think that singing in English should be easy for those who speak English, it is often harder to produce the necessary sounds chorally to get each word across to the audience. Mr. Brown's ensemble failed to get the words out to its audience Saturday night. Except for the women's chorus on A Girl's Garden, and the Augusta Children's Chorale performance along with the Society, it was hard to understand many of Mr. Frost's words without looking at the text.

Musically, the group maneuvered Mr. Thompson's score pleasantly, giving a full sense of the autumnal qualities of the poems and musical settings. The women's chorus at times overshadowed the smaller men's ensemble, producing clearer tones and a more even, blended sound. Tonally, the men were consistently flat and both the men and women lacked movement and life on top notes in the work.

Overall, the volunteer group's enthusiasm for singing, Mr. Brown's use of the work's musical markings, and the symphony's rich, wonderful sound pleasingly produced Mr. Thompson's composition.

Linda Leslie Bradberry, director of the children's chorale, led her ensemble in a wonderful presentation of Paul Bouman's A Child's Garden of Verses. The two songs, with words by Robert Louis Stevenson, were performed by the children with excellent diction and intonation as well as good use of the dynamic structure of the pieces. Accompanist Sarah Prichard's rich, full-bodied sound on the piano enhanced the performance.

The choral society and chorale combined for Leonard Bernstein's Chichester Psalms, a setting of six Psalms for vocal soloists, chorus, and orchestra, performed in Hebrew. While the overall production was pleasant, the society's diction was again deficient, as was their lack of growth and forward movement of the tone. Soloists from the society produced weak performances, barely audible over the percussion-filled orchestra.

The children's chorale admirably joined the society for the Psalms. The children's diction was again excellent, as was their sweet sound. The society's energy level for this moving composition was extremely high and aided the sound quality of the group.

Mr. Brown's conducting and the members of the Augusta Symphony's playing of the score, with Mr. Bernstein's use of eight percussionists, was commendable.

The second half of the program opened with a wonderful performance of Samuel Barber's Knoxville: Summer of 1915. Soprano Arietha Lockhart of Atlanta was featured in this vivid portrait of the warm, loving, simple life of a youth during the summer of 1915. Writings of James Agee that was reminiscent of his childhood was set to music by Mr. Barber in this piece.

A splendid find, Ms. Lockhart performed the work beautifully. Her clear diction and warm, sweet vocal tone enhanced Mr. Barber's setting perfectly, allowing the listener to hear the piece, not just the singer. Ms. Lockhart and the orchestra convinced all in attendance that the radiance of the work comes from Agee's text and the properties of the melody.

Under the direction of Ellis Johnson, the Augusta Chorale performed next, singing two a cappella spirituals exuberantly. Performing Marshall Bartholomew's Little Innocent Lamb and Moses Hagan's The Battle of Jericho, the group produced excellent tone and clear, precise diction that did not overwhelm the text or feel of the songs.

The chorale joined with soloist Ms. Lockhart, the children's chorale and the choral society for the program's finale, A Balm in Gilead. Written for the 1998 Martin Luther King Commemorative Concert of the Colorado Symphony Orchestra, the performance was the East Coast premiere of the work. Using familiar and less well-known spirituals, composer John Kuzma set the work in three sections: Gospel-Jazz, Lullaby, and Boogie-Woogie. While the audience enjoyed the work and the ensemble performed it fairly well, it gave off an unappealing Broadway feel to the wonderful words of the spirituals.

The Augusta Choral Society's next performance is May 22 when it presents the annual Pops Along the Savannah concert at the Jessye Norman Amphitheater.

Donna Branch is a free-lance writer and former opera singer who studied voice performance at Augusta State University and opera performance at Georgia State University.





--http://augustachronicle.com/stories/031299/fea_choralreview.shtml (March 12, 1999)

Ariadne auf Naxos
Denver Entertainment: The Denver Post - Colorado Breaking News ...
extras.denverpost.com/scene/aspen0825.htm
... Arietha Lockhart was an attractively flirtatious Zerbinetta with crystalline coloratura that captivated ear and heart. --Denver Post (08/25/1999)

A Concert of Celebration and Praise
A Concert of Celebration and Praise

ARIETHA LOCKHART, Soprano

(The performer asks that the congregation not applaud her but, instead give God the praise as the Spirit leads you)

Laudate Dominum (from the Solemne Vespers) W. A Mozart

Alleluia (Exsultate Jubilate) W.A. Mozart

Let All Mortal Flesh Keep Silence (Liturgy of St. James) Translation Gerard Moultrie-Traditional French Carol Arrangement from the CD “Nobody Like Jesus” James Cockerham and BASIC(Brothers and Sisters in Christ)

*”Sweet Hour of Prayer”- William Walford/William Bradbury

*”Blessed Assurance”- Fanny Crosby/Phoebe P. Knapp

*”Just As I Am”-Charlotte Elliot/Phillip Landgrave

*”I Surrender All”- J.W. Van De Venter /W.S. Weedan

*”There’s Something about That Name”- William J. Gaither

*”Give Me a Clean Heart”- Dr. Margaret Douroux

*”Hear Our Prayer, Oh Lord”- George Whelpton

*“Morning Meditation” instrumental praise by James Cockerham

“Soon I will be Done” Traditional Spiritual Arr. J. Cockerham

* Selections arranged by James Cockerham performed with vocals by permission from the instrumental CD “Morning Meditation” for information call (770.593.8522) or email BASICcoc@aol.com

--Arietha Booking (Sacred Church Concerts )

Booking Concerts
PROJECT DETAILS FOR ARIETHA LOCKHART, SOPRANO

Objectives: To give vocal concerts in churches, schools and civic venues.
A frequent soloist with the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra, Arietha Lockhart has appeared with the Aspen Opera Theatre, as well as performing in recital at Spivey Hall and civic organizations throughout the southeast. Her largest audience, however, never saw her, for it was she who provided the haunting, ethereal voice of the battered white butterfly in the worldwide broadcast of the 1996 Olympic Games Opening Ceremony.

I. Day Concerts-“It’s All About Character”Residencies and concerts at Elementary and Middle Schools. Target audiences K-8 grade students. Program emphasis will be on Character Education. Program would meet the Georgia State Guidelines for Character Education ( RESPECT- Showing regard for the worth of someone or something, RESPONSIBILITY-Taking care of one’s self and others; to carry out a duty or task carefully and thoroughly, CITIZENSHIP- Respectful devotion to one’s country and/or school, COMPASSION- Showing concern or sympathy for others, RESILIENCE-The capacity to successfully manage high levels or change, TOLERANCE-Respecting the individual differences, views and beliefs of other people, COMMITMENT- The obligation or pledge to carry out some action or to support some policy or person, INTEGRITY-Steadfast adherence to a strict code of moral, ethical or artistic values, to consistently be truthful and fair, ACCOMPLISHMENT- appreciation for attaining one’s goals) and the National Standards for Music (Standard 6B-Listening to, analyzing, and describing music: Students demonstrate perceptual skills by moving, by answering questions about, and by describing aural examples of music of various styles representing diverse cultures. And Standard 6C-Listening to, analyzing and describing music: Students use appropriate terminology in explaining music, music notation, musical instruments and voices, and music performances)

II. Evening Concerts -Target Audience will be adults. Programs will consist of varied genres and styles of vocal literature. Contemporary Music will be highlighted as a portion of each program given. The evening format will include piano
accompaniment. Outreach Opportunities include: Giving the concert or masterclasses in the afternoon at a church or high school. Senior programming will include a sing-a-
long component.

III. PROGRAMMING INFORMATION: Phone: 404-291-5162
• CONTACT-ARIETHA LOCKHART E-MAIL Ariethal@hotmail.com
• PROGRAM LENGTH: Day programs 45 min. Evening programs 90 min.
• GRADE LEVEL (Character Programs- K-8) Song Recitals (9-Adult)
• FEES $400 for School Programs ( audience of 300 or less)
$600 for School Programs ( audience of 500-301)
$1000+ for Solo Recitals, 90 minute Workshop/Masterclasses
$1,500 for 1-day School residency. (6- 30 minute classes of 25 students)
• AVAILABLITY: Flexible



--Georgia Touring Roster (Posted for Presenters)

Carnegie Hall Debut Recital in Weill Hall
Subject: your review
Date: Sat, 26 Apr 2003 21:47:01 -0400
Arietha,
Did I send you a copy of my review yet? If not, one thousand apologies. Curtis has his copy. I have been so busy. Loved your performance. So did my daughter. Here it is. Please let me know if it doesn't come through correctly. There are 4 photos at the top. My publication is called Words, UnLtd. This is the May 2003 issue.
All best,
Marta
Center for Contemporary Opera
Winners of the International Opera Singers Competition
Weill Recital Hall at Carnegie Hall
April 14, 2003
New York City
W
arning: If you're feeling weak, scrunched, between Patriot I and the hideous specter of Patriot II, do not go to hear the likes of Arietha Lockhart (above, left) and Raemond Martin (above, center). Because you will melt as I did, especially at the encore, their only duet, "Bess, You Is My Woman," from Gershwin's Porgie and Bess. The blend of her lyric coloratura soprano and his dark, almost bass baritone is the ultimate in musical intoxication.
More to the point, these two winners of the International Opera Singers Competition 2003 gave a delightful two-hour concert at Weill Hall on April 14 - Arietha's Carnegie Hall and New York debut, but her ample experience as a performer had more than prepared her. If she was nervous, her first notes were reassuring, fluttering like spring flower petals: alternately soft and resonant, from whispered recitative to filling the amplitudes of the hall. This is her story as it intersects with composer Curtis Bryant (above, right), husband of my college classmate, friend, and fellow music devotee, Nancy Williams Bryant. The initial and usual meeting ground is Atlanta, Georgia, where Curtis composes and teaches and Arietha sings: with the Atlanta Symphony, and the Robert Shaw Chamber Singers and Festival Singers, among many other award-winning stages here and overseas. Her largest audience heard her in 1996 as the voice of the battered white butterfly of the Olympic Games Opening Ceremony.
The late Robert Shaw chose Arietha as soloist for his recording of Agnus Dei, Samuel Barber's choral setting of his Adagio for Strings, on the Telarc compact disk Evocation of the Spirit. Curtis, at home in all music media and a sought-after and frequently commissioned composer all over the world for television, movies, and special events, has received numerous Southern Regional Emmy award nominations and many ASCAP (American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers) Awards.
Among Arietha's selections at her very successful debut were four compositions by Curtis: three from the biblical Song of Solomon and one from his recently premiered opera Zabette, Act I, Scene 1 (libretto by Mary R. Bullard), which had its Carnegie Hall debut in March 2001. In the poignant "Portrait Aria" sung by Arietha, the protagonist pleads with her deceased father, a French plantation owner, to accept her as his daughter and save her from the plight of slavery, bequeathed to her by the identity of her mother.
The three passages Curtis set to music from Song of Solomon are "Set Me as a Seal," "Arise My Love," and "I Am the Rose of Sharon."
The "new music" aims at recapturing some of the melodious tonality "contemporary" classical music of the twentieth century rebelled against. But the tonality of many of the performed pieces, which Curtis described as "art songs," is rebellious (sometimes atonal and dissonant), even wedded to biblical verses that have remained constant for centuries. Some of the new music strikes me as allowing more room for accompanists than I am used to in traditional music: not only solos but striking and surprising creative departures away from the melody and the role of the vocalist. The program ended with a witty repartee between piano and vocalist in "The Drinking Song" by David Del Tredici, piano having the last word with a humorous flourish that made the audience laugh before applauding vigorously. It is as if many of the accompaniments have the prominence of the Schubert Lied "Erlkönnig," with its memorable and assertive piano mimicking the beat of horse hooves and menacing spirits that attended lone travelers at night.
The range of selections was from the Afro-American folk tradition, the Bible, the poetry of Langston Hughes, Rumi, and Denise Levertov, the drama of Eugene O'Neill, to a lament of Lady Julian of Norwich and a prosopopeia of Caedmon (the latter two by Mary Badarak). So there was something for everyone, from the familiarity of Porgie and Bess and Margaret Bonds' soulful "He's Got the Whole World in His Hands" to the exoticism of rediscovered moments in history, Caedmon's awakening out of obscure monkhood into the glory of his musicality.
Five of the composers were present in addition to Curtis Bryant: Mary Badarak, Philip Hagemann, Andrew Violette and David Del Tredici, creator of "Quietness" (Rumi) and "Drinking Song," (Michael Klein) the witty finale.
Copyright © Marta Steele 2003. All rights reserved.
***

--Words, UnLtd. (May 2003)

Artist Series of Sarasota
Quote from review by June LeBell, best known as the first female announcer for the classical radio station WQXR in New York.
"What she (Arietha Lockhart) has--God-given talent, enormous range and a natural, near perfect placement--are things that simply cannot be taught.
What happens next? Stay tuned." --Long Boat Observer, Sarasota Florida (January 23, 2003)

Operatic Favorites in Concert
REVIEW
Symphony, guest artist stage dramatic night at the opera

By James Conely
Special to the Advertiser


As Thomas Hinds conducted the Montgomery Symphony Orchestra's fourth subscription concert of the season, some of grand opera's most familiar melodies filled the Davis Theatre. Although the program focused on opera, with soprano Arietha Lockhart as the featured guest artist, the alternately dramatic and restrained music required the full range of the orchestra's resources.

The symphony's greatest challenges were five pieces played without vocals. The concert opened with Hinds' arrangement of music from the Prologue and Coronation Scene from Mussorgsky's "Boris Godunov," large-scale music carefully constructed to tell a grand and regal story. This was big music for a big orchestra with moments for each section to add unique color. It ended in a climactic clamor of recorded tower bells extending beyond the conductor's final cut-off, resulting in a sound that was not quite resonant and authentic enough to be effective.

Later in the program, "Elsa's Procession to the Cathedral" from Wagner's "Lohengrin," the march from Prokofiev's "The Love for Three Oranges" and the "Polovetsian Dances" from Borodin's "Prince Igor" also called for massive resources and dramatic delivery. These were all competently performed with color and energy, sometimes with too much temptation for the brass to overblow and woodwinds to have less than precise attacks together. The concert's final accelerando was mostly under control, but not entirely convincing.

The orchestra's most secure and effective playing was the "Intermezzo" from Mascagni's "Cavalleria Rusticana." Not at all "rustic" as the opera's title would suggest, this music was refined and very well-played, notably the transcendent and ethereal strings.

However, the greatest pleasure of this concert was hearing Arietha Lockhart. Currently living in Atlanta, she grew up in the small Alabama town of Brewton. She received her bachelor's and master's degrees in music from the University of Alabama. Since then she has won prizes in New York and performed across Europe as well as Carnegie Hall and other notable venues in the United States.

Her consummate artistry was readily apparent in this concert in "Juliet's Waltz" from Gounod's "Romeo and Juliet," the doll song from Offenbach's "Tales of Hoffman," "Musetta's Waltz" from Puccini's "La BohÈme," "O Mio Babbino" from Puccini's "Gianni Schicchi" and the bell song from Delibes' "LakmÈ." In each of these songs her voice was clear and unforced throughout her considerable range.

She also was very much physically in character as she portrayed the different roles of these songs, from being amusingly mechanical for the doll song to coquettish for Musetta. If there was only one of her songs to highlight, it might be the LakmÈ bell song, notable for the agility with which she placed the many rapid and detached high notes, all with pure tone and accurate pitch.

The audience was enchanted with her from her first note, calling her back to the stage for repeated bows. Finally in response, Lockhart sang Gershwin's "Summertime," the lullaby from "Porgy and Bess," with grace and simplicity, and again in character.

Overall, this night at the opera was appropriately dramatic, energetic, generally well-played and very welcome. The orchestra's final subscription concert this season will be April 25 at the Davis Theatre, when the featured soloist will be the winner of the Blount-Slawson Young Artists Competition.


--------------------------------------------------------------------------------
James Conely is on the faculty at Huntingdon College, organist at Capitol Heights United Methodist Church and resident composer for the Alabama Shakespeare Festival.

--http://www.montgomeryadvertiser.com/entertainment/storyV5symphonyrev26w.htm (February 26, 2005)

Bach Wachet Auf and Mozart Solemn Vespers
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CONCERT REVIEW: Elysium, an Evening’s Delight
By James L. Paulk | Monday, October 15, 2007, 06:12 AM

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

CONCERT REVIEW Elysium Chamber Orchestra and Chorus. Saturday at Morningside Presbyterian Church. www.elysiumchamber.org

Small ensembles are the life-blood of Atlanta’s classical music scene, and fortunately they seem to be growing in number. One of the newest is Elysium, which combines a professional chamber orchestra with a mid-sized chorus.

The group’s second concert, heard Saturday at Morningside Presbyterian Church, included two works for strings and two for the whole ensemble with chorus.

The most obscure item was Mendelssohn’s “Sinfonia in B Minor,” one of a suite of string symphonies he composed between the ages of 12 and 14. P. David Hancock, one of the group’s two conductors, led them in a lush romantic reading, darkly balanced towards the lower strings. The effect was not so much to kill off the good cheer of the piece as to add a measure of wistfulness.

The same approach worked nicely for Elgar’s “Serenade for Strings,” one of the composer’s earliest but most popular works.

Bach’s Cantata No. 140 brought in the full orchestra, the chorus, and a new conductor. It was fun to hear the orchestra switch gears, as Alan Raines took them back to something closer to an early-music playing style, brisk and crisp.

But most of the attention shifted to the chorus, whose sound filled the room nicely. This is not an amateur ensemble. They sing as one, with round tones and excellent focus. This cantata is a nice test for everyone, despite being one of Bach’s most popular and enduring works. It’s based on a hymn, “Sleepers Awake,” known to most churchgoers. But with Bach, the familiar music is woven into a wonderfully complicated tapestry, as soloists recite from the Song of Solomon and sing verses as arias with the chorus responding.

The evening’s big number was Mozart’s “Solemn Vespers,” again for the full ensemble. Composed for the Archbishop of Salzburg, who liked things short, it packs a lot into a small package. It isn’t really very solemn, and much of it is energetic.

Mozart loved his sopranos, and they always got the juicy parts. Good for us, because our soprano was Arietha Lockhart, an Atlanta singer who is emerging on the national scene. Lockhart’s voice is ideal for this kind of music. She has a sweet, clear sound with little vibrato, a bit similar to that of a boy soprano. With near perfect intonation and control, she sounds remarkably like the late Arleen Auger, who had a cult following in this repertoire.

A young tenor, Cullen Gandy, was one of the delights of the evening, soaring over the orchestra in his solo bits. Bass-baritone Stephen Ozcomert has a heftier sound, though he seemed a bit careless about pitch. Desiree Maira performed nicely in a smaller role for mezzo-soprano. At times, you wished the soloists hadn’t been so buried in their scores. It would have been nice to see their faces.

As is the custom here, each piece was introduced with a chat. Apparently, Atlantans can’t simply be trusted to read program notes
--Atlanta Journal and Constitution http://www.accessatlanta.com/blogs/content/shared-blogs/accessatlanta/atlarts/entries/2007/10/15/concert_review_elysium_an_even.html (October 15, 2007)

Christmas with the ASO
REVIEW A Timewarp Christmas with the ASO
CONCERT REVIEW “Christmas with the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra.”
By James L. Paulk | Friday, December 7, 2007, 12:08 PM

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution



The annual “Christmas with the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra” concert arrived in these parts in the late 1960s under Robert Shaw, and pretty much everything about it has been enshrined as a Christmas tradition — not unlike the “Nutcracker” camped out a few blocks down Peachtree Street, but with a decidedly older audience demographic.

Standing still can be dangerous for an orchestra, and the rows of empty seats on Thursday were a poignant reminder of the price to be paid. But those who showed up had a swell time, thanks partly to Norman Mackenzie’s meticulous conducting.

Just as Shaw spent several years as choirmaster for hyper-disciplined maestro Arturo Toscanini, Mackenzie spent 14 years as Shaw’s protege. The baton has passed — um, so to speak — and you can hear Toscanini’s rapid pacing and careful textures still alive here. The ASO Chorus sang a capella for part of the evening, exposing their glorious tonal quality and expressive range.

In Berlioz’s “Shepherds’ Farewell” (from “L’Enfance du Christ”) and Bruckner’s “Ave Maria,” the group’s trademark unity of voices comes through. The basses and baritones are still the great strength of the group, with pedal tones that resonate like a pipe organ. You can compare this performance to old recordings under Shaw and hear how little things have changed.

The other highlight of the evening was the Morehouse College Glee Club. They got their first shot almost halfway into the program, and immediately seized the audience’s attention with a passionate performance of the spiritual “Oh, Po’ Little Jesus.” Soon they were back, singing “Betelehemu,” a Christian folk carol from West Africa. It’s a wild ride, with drumming, clapping, choreographed gestures, and a distinct African sound, performed with the authenticity and energy that mark this ensemble.

The Gwinnett Young Singers sang several carols from Britten’s exquisite “Ceremony of Carols.” Britten strictly insisted on boy trebles for these works, and you can hear his point when listening to this mostly girl group, despite their enthusiastic effort. But they came through sweetly with Vaughan Williams’ “Lullaby” (from “Hodie”).

In the carol “So Blest a Sight,” emerging Atlanta soprano Arietha Lockhart displayed lovely tone and diction, though her voice isn’t quite large enough to soar over the orchestra. Soon after her solo, she put on a robe and slipped back into the chorus, of which she is a member.

Two excerpts pirated from the ASO’s performance next week of “Messiah” were an expedient programming choice unworthy of a great orchestra, which might at least be expected to find new material for each program, even if the “Hallelujah” Chorus is guaranteed to get the audience on its feet.

Bach stole the show, as is his way, with “Dona nobis pacem,” an excerpt from his B Minor Mass, so finely sung that it could be recorded live in one take. Like his mentor Shaw, Mackenzie comes to these works with a strong religious background, and the ecclesiastic reverence shines through. But his “Nutcracker” excerpts were unusually lively, too, in pointed contrast to the recording being broadcast for the ballet at the Fox.

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http://www.ajc.com/blogs/content/shared-blogs/accessatlanta/atlarts/entries/2007/12/index.html
--Atlanta Journal and Constitution (December 7, 2007)

 
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