University of Maryland Concert Choir performs at Carnegie Hall with NSO

Update to this article: Back in May 2018, the classical music critic for a major news publication in the District of Columbia made mention of this performance at Carnegie Hall as part of the NSO’s tour and that they would “play Carnegie Hall.” Does the woman not know that the Rossini Stabat Mater is a symphonic choral work? Because as expected — and from what I’ve come to expect from so-called “music critics,” — she did not mention the University of Maryland Concert Choir at all. Just like up in Boston recently, the opera-based music critic failed to mention the Tanglewood Festival Chorus by name in his review of their performance with the Boston Symphony Orchestra of the Rossini. They were referred to as “the chorus” (with a lower case “c”; it should be a capital “C”). If one doesn’t keep up with these things, one wouldn’t necessarily know who the Chorus was for that performance. Also as expected, that reviewer in Boston spent most of his article about the vocal operatic shrill soloists screamers as if they were the most important part of the performance for this symphonic choral work. This is most typical of opera-based people. In both performances (in DC and in Boston), once again this relegates the Chorus in a performance to second class musicians status and not worthy of mention and I’m sick and tired of this, as if they are an unimportant part of the performance. Since no Chorus was mentioned at all in the upcoming performances by the NSO, I’d love to see the NSO play and sing the Rossini Stabat Mater, serving as their own Chorus. Although upon reflection, I wouldn’t want to hear that performance because as superb as they are as orchestral musicians, I suspect their level of choral excellence would be rock bottom, especially when they would be having to play their instrument’s orchestral parts at the correct time as well as watching the choral vocal score to see when they’re supposed to come in as a chorister, and not having been prepared by any serious Chorus Director whatsoever nor having undergone any vocal training presumably. But to my knowledge, this glaring omission of the University of Maryland Concert Choir is not the fault of the NSO, but rather of the so-called “classical music critic” who seems to prefer to not do a thorough job — and being respectful of the Chorus invited by the NSO for these performances — when writing her articles. I’ve read other things she’s written as well. Surely there’s someone in the District, Maryland or Virginia who could do a better job than this woman.

Hola a todos. The performance of major symphonic choral works seems to be at an all-time low these days in the US, even for orchestras that have their own Chorus, which leaves me wondering: Not to give anyone any ideas, but how long before some orchestras disband their Official Chorus due to the public’s lack of interest in symphonic choral music, or choral music in general? Of course they would need a Chorus for their required and annual Messiah performances in December per tradition, but orchestras could invite some local Chorus to perform that.

I’ve noticed that more and more orchestras are programming — what I call — dumbed-down “fluff” to cater to a certain audience by Disneyfying their programmes with performances of movie soundtracks, film soundtracks, Harry Potter stuff, so-called “Family-Friendly” programming and “Music for Families” with images of a white family with children programming and other stuff. (Related: National Symphony Orchestra (US) promoting gun violence).

From my research, these days major symphony orchestras in the US seem to be programming about 4-5 symphonic choral works a season, or a piece such as incidental music featuring the Chorus. That’s about it. That can include but does not necessarily include the required Messiah (or should that read: Me$$iah?) performances in December. When I was heavily involved in Orchestra Choruses in the Kennedy Center Concert Hall, 3-5 performances would have been the number of engagements just for one Chorus — the University of Maryland Chorus — that they had with the NSO during the season. The Choral Arts Society of Washington also had a few performances with the NSO as well, and the Oratorio Society of Washington had 1-2 performances with the NSO. So, roughly twice as many symphonic choral works were programmed at that time compared to today. The decline of symphonic choral performances is especially true for oratorios and Bach cantatas, excluding of course the ubiquitous, perfunctory and predictable performances of that war horse oratorio Messiah which is dragged out like clockwork every holiday season at the neglect of many other superb symphonic choral works which could be performed instead, such as Ralph Vaughan Williams’s Hodie, as just one example. Just like nearly everywhere I looked they’re performing Beethoven’s Ninth and Orff’s Carmina Burana, just like everybody else! That’s especially the case for the 2019-20 season with performances of Beethoven’s Ninth because the year 2020 marks the 250th birthday of Beethoven. So they’re all jumping in on that commemoration. And I don’t even need to give the name of the composer of Messiah because everybody knows it — don’t they? Or do they only know the name Messiah? — from it being so over-performed. (Related: Not Messiah Again?!) But orchestral management and most choral ensembles understand that Messiah is their big dinero-maker/money maker at the end of the year. Oh, and by the way, it’s Messiah and not The Messiah as some mistakenly write it. (See image of Editions Novello here).

So these days, on the odd occasion that the National Symphony Orchestra (NSO), the resident Orchestra for the Kennedy Center Concert Hall in the District of Columbia performs a symphonic choral work (other than “The Big Three” that I mentioned up above: Händel’s Messiah, Beethoven’s Ninth or Orff’s Carmina Burana), there are three Orchestra Choruses that perform with the NSO upon invitation. They are the Choral Arts Society of Washington, The Washington Chorus (formerly the Oratorio Society of Washington) and the University of Maryland Concert Choir.

Even though it’s been proposed several times over the years by newly-arriving conductors of the NSO that they have their own Symphony Chorus, the idea has been rejected each time. In part, I think because of tradition and also because the local Orchestra Choruses (listed in the previous paragraph) would no longer have the opportunity to perform with the NSO if the Orchestra had its own Chorus.

The University of Maryland Concert Choir has been invited to perform the Rossini Stabat Mater in the Kennedy Center Concert Hall as well as in Carnegie Hall (May 2019) with the NSO. Their performance will be something that the choristers of the UMD Concert Choir will remember for the rest of their lives and talk about, leaving a lasting impression, just as with my experience with the now “retired” University of Maryland Chorus and other Orchestra Choruses. A wonderful performance opportunity for them.

Interestingly, the Choral Arts Society of Washington performed the Rossini last season in the Kennedy Center Concert Hall with a pick up Orchestra (members of the NSO, I think). The article I read about their performance didn’t specifically mention the NSO/National Symphony Orchestra — I kept looking for the NSO — so I don’t think they were officially the performing Orchestra. The performance by the Choral Arts Society was described as “stellar.” But that was about all he said about the Choral Arts Society Chorus. He spent most of his review going on about the vocal soloists, which frankly I didn’t have any interest in to tell you the truth. As a “choral person,” if only “arts critics/professional reviewers” — I don’t consider myself either — spent as much time and attention analysing the Chorus and their superb performance throughout the piece as they do writing reams about the vocal soloists. But that’s usually not the case as they don’t seem to have been there for the Chorus, which relegates the Chorus to Second Class Musicians’ status as I’ve written before, and I’m sick of it. The reviewer, for some reason, felt the need to describe the Choral Arts Society Chorus as an “all-volunteer Chorus.” That’s irrelevant. They’re all “all-volunteer.” That has nothing to do with anything. But they all — Choral Arts, The Washington Chorus and the UMD Concert Choir — have very stringent audition requirements. None of the choristers are paid to my knowledge. Was “all-volunteer” intended to mean that they are amateur rather than a professional Orchestra Chorus, whether paid or not? The Choral Arts Society of Washington has always been an “all-volunteer” Chorus that performs mostly with major symphony orchestras or members of — so there’s nothing new about that! — as it was when I sang with them, and I don’t remember “all-volunteer” being mentioned in our reviews. To my knowledge, all Orchestra Choruses in the US are still “all-volunteer” except for the all-paid Chicago Symphony Chorus, and the San Francisco Symphony Chorus (20% of their choristers are paid, or that was the case when I sang with them, unless that has changed over the years).

I do have to wonder though and I ask this sort of tongue-in-cheek: Is the Choral Arts Society of Washington “seething with envy” that the University of Maryland Concert Choir was invited to perform with the NSO in Carnegie Hall and not them, considering the Choral Arts Society just performed the piece last season receiving a stellar review? If so, this is history repeating itself because I remember the jealousy that the Choral Arts Society had for the University of Maryland Chorus when they had frequent engagements with the NSO and was very sought after and was given similar invitations by the NSO and other (inter)national orchestras such as this engagement in Carnegie Hall? (Related: University of Maryland Chorus – A Tribute).

I can’t make any comment or give an opinion about the University of Maryland Concert Choir because I’ve never heard them. In major part, that’s because they have no internet presence which I find very surprising here in 2019. (Mi amigo/My friend said, “Hopefully they are as good as the University of Maryland Chorus that they replaced which sang with a straight-tone, no noticeable vibrato.”) Yes, the UMD Concert Choir replaced the renowned University of Maryland Chorus as the Symphonic Chorus on campus so one would think they would perform regularly — or at least once a year — with the University of Maryland Symphony Orchestra in a performance of a symphonic choral work and would professionally record performances for the UMD’s U-toob channel. But nada. Nothing that I could find. They have that fairly new (historically speaking) concert venue on campus, the Clarice Smith Performing Arts Center. It opened in 2001 on the University of Maryland College Park campus. It’s the largest single building every built by the State of Maryland. It houses six performance venues; the UMD School of Music; and the UMD School of Theatre, Dance, and Performance Studies. You can see images of the Center here. I should think the centre has state-of-the-art recording capabilities, and one would think the University of Maryland would want to promote the School of Music by featuring the UMD Concert Choir regularly in performances of symphonic choral works of all kinds, including oratorios and cantatas. For example, since 2001 they could have already performed and recorded “The Big Three” (the three symphonic choral works that we’re down to; the only ones that the public will mostly support now): Messiah, Beethoven’s Ninth and Orff’s Carmina Burana on campus as well as a Brahms’s Ein deutsches Requiem, Op. 45. But nada. Nothing. The UMD Concert Choir performed the Brahms with the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra awhile back, so one wonders why they didn’t perform it on campus with the UMD Symphony Orchestra as well and professionally record it since the Chorus was already prepared?

I found some performances of one of UMD’s choral ensembles, but they were not professionally recorded which is what I’m suggesting they should do. Instead, they were recorded off of someone’s phone and uploaded to the UMD U-toob channel so the quality was not the best, rather poor.

In Boston’s New England Conservatory (NEC), they have it together. They’ve turned Jordan Hall, their acoustically-superb Concert Hall, into a professional recording studio, as you can see in this video below in their performance of Schubert’s Great Symphony in C Major, which nicely helps to promote the New England Conservatory:

One wonders why the University of Maryland’s School of Music doesn’t do the same and professionally record their performances in full? Being a state school (UMD) versus a private school (NEC) shouldn’t have anything to do with it, I shouldn’t think. And being their own performances, they would own the copyrights and most of the major symphonic choral works I’m thinking of and suggesting they perform would be in the public domain. For the exposure, I would think that any contemporary composer would gladly give them permission to perform and record his/her pieces and make them available on UMD’s U-toob channel. It would be an excellent way of promoting the University of Maryland College Park and the School of Music. The New England Conservatory seems to understands this.

By the way, the NEC Philharmonia is superb, and I think many of its musicians study with the musicians of the Boston Symphony Orchestra who are on the Faculty at the NEC. I watched the NEC Philharmonia’s performance of the Schubert Great Symphony in C Major (video above) and noticed that their First Concertmaster gave the same bowing instructions to the strings for the final part of the last movement that my favourite Orchestra (hr-sinfonieorchester/Frankfurt Radio Symphony) used when they performed the piece. They played those passages identically, and looked like they enjoyed themselves which was good to see. But unfortunately I can’t say the same for the NEC Concert Choir, or at least from their Brahms’s performance I tried to listen to. Their Chorus Director seems to have fed into the new Vibrato Fad(TM) where some/too many Chorus Directors in the US — and especially in what seems to be the Vibrato Capital of Boston (the troubled Tanglewood Festival Chorus, Boston University Symphony Chorus and NEC Concert Choir; although sometimes the Men sing with perfect intonation but not the Women) — are abandoning one of the key components of choral excellence: Perfect Intonation (the perfect blending of voices). So they’re allowing their choristers (sopranos being the worst, followed by altos and tenors) to wobble, flutter and quiver their voices, preventing the perfect blending of voices in SATB choral sections.

Apparently to justify their own preference for hearing heavy-vibrato from a Chorus (or at least the sopranos and altos), some Chorus Directors are going so far as to say that Robert Shaw liked hearing individual voices in a Chorus, just because they do. I remember when Dra Ann Howard Jones (who worked with Robert Shaw in Atlanta) told a group of musicians that, “Bob liked to hear individual voices.” She knows that is not true from working with Shaw and his superb Atlanta Symphony Orchestra Chorus, but he’s not around to correct her and say to her, “Now Ann, you know that is not true! Why are you putting that out there? Just because you like to hear individual voices don’t drag me into it and discredit my reputation.” But that’s her revisionist history. The only time Robert Shaw liked to hear individual voices was in a chorister’s audition or from the vocal soloist(s) on the stage. So there’s no need to drag Robert Shaw into it and justify the use of heavy vibrato just because she personally likes to hear individual voices as one heard in her Boston University Symphony Orchestra and Chorus performance of Mendelssohn’s Elias/Elijah, as one example. In that performance one heard the sopranos and altos quivering, wobbling and fluttering their way through the entire Sanctus (Holy, Holy, Holy). They had a very rough sound, not a smooth-polished sound. I was surprised Dra Jones allowed that considering her credentials and she had worked with Shaw. Elias is one of my favourite symphonic choral works and I’ve heard many performances of it. I know it well. I even had the privilege of serving as rehearsal accompanist for our performance of Elias/Elijah at the Conservatory where I trained because I was the piano accompanist for the Conservatory Concert Choir. I had never heard that (“Holy, Holy, Holy”) sung that way with ugly vibrato before. It’s always sung with a lovely straight-tone, usually sounding like the finest of Anglican trebles/boy choirsters, and then the Full Chorus comes in and answers them, and then they go back and forth in response to each other. But with the BU performance, it was as if we were hearing each individual voice of the soprano and alto sections with their un-synchronised vibrato all fluttering and wobbling at different vibrato rates. It was difficult to listen to because the Women of the Chorus were not singing with perfect intonation. It was not an example of choral excellence whatsoever. I had expected Dra Jones’s Chorus to sound more like Atlanta from her being there and working directly with Shaw, but it didn’t. And Robert Shaw did not like to hear individual voices. Robert Shaw repeatedly insisted on perfect intonation and I heard him mention it in his Carnegie Hall Choral Workshops. He said: “After you master diction, perfect intonation, (and then he gave other examples of what comprises choral excellence)…” and Dra Jones was sitting right there in the Chorus on the front row when he said that. It must have made her cringe since she didn’t agree with him obviously based on how she prepared the Chorus for various performances at BU’s School of Music. As I recall, in their Mendelssohn/Elias performance, the tenors and basses sang with perfect intonation but the sopranos and altos did not, as if the Men and Women were prepared by two different Chorus Directors. That’s a fairly common occurrence I’ve noticed in recent years. I don’t know why the Women of the Chorus are allowed to wobble and flutter and who finds that annoying sound attractive? Well obviously Dra Jones does as she was smiling broadly at the Women while they were wobbling and fluttering, but it’s not attractive to my “choral ear.” One wonders: Is that why Robert Shaw encouraged her to take the job offer up at Boston University to get her out of Atlanta? I’m merely asking the question. According to what she said when she talked with him about the job offer from Boston University School of Music, he said, “You’ll take it.” So she did. I knew of Dra Ann Howard Jones from seeing her name on the CD covers of recordings of the ASO and Chorus. I had thought she would become the new Chorus Director for Atlanta. But after Shaw’s death in 1999, Norman McKenzie became the Chorus Director — specifically the Director of Choral Activities — for the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra Chorus in 2000, and not Dra Jones. The ASO described McKenzie as “the logical choice as a longtime disciple of Shaw.” But just because Dra Jones likes to hear individual fluttering and wobbling voices, it is most disrespect of her to try to justify that by riding on the coattails of the late Robert Shaw. I helped to train my “choral ear” on Robert Shaw’s superb Atlanta Symphony Orchestra Chorus and I never heard individual voices in his Chorus. His ASOC had a very polished, smooth, warm, rich velvety sound with perfect intonation (where each choral section sounded like one voice the way it’s supposed to sound) similar to the Chicago Symphony Chorus under the late Margaret Hillis during the Solti years.

I believe I read that Boston University’s School of Music — which is a Conservatory environment — considers itself to be a “solo school.” Studying to be a soloist is fine, but there’s a musical concept called ensemble singing which many people worldwide studying to be a soloist don’t seem to grasp/understand. It seems to wash right over them. When one is singing or playing in an ensemble, perfect intonation is one of the goals, not sticking out as a soloist. You can’t have 200 “solo” voices in a Symphony Chorus. Well you can, but it will sound awful. It will sound like an Opera Chorus. Perfect intonation would be non-existent in that situation. With choral excellence, one strives for the perfect blending of voices in each SATB section, which cannot be achieved if someone is singing as if they were a soloist. One needs to use his or her “chorister voice” in an ensemble. The finest of musicians understand this, such as some of the vocal soloists I’ve seen/heard who perform with the Chorus of William Christie’s Les Arts Florissants. They turned off their “soloist voice” and used their “chorister voice” when they joined in an encore with the Les Arts Florissants Orchestra and Chorus. Their “solo” voice was not heard; it did not stick out. Their voices blended perfectly with the other choristers.

A bit of history: Before the founding of the Tanglewood Festival Chorus (TFC), Lorna Cooke de Varon’s New England Conservatory Chorus served as the Chorus for the BSO from 1953-1986 according to NEC’s website. Until 1986? Is that correct or is that a typo? The reason I’m asking is because at least in the BSO and Boston Pops broadcasts I watched over PBS from Symphony Hall in Boston, I didn’t see the New England Conservatory Chorus perform again with the BSO after the first performance I saw of the Tanglewood Festival Chorus (TFC) with the Boston Pops. They were founded in 1970 by John Oliver at the request of Seiji Ozawa as the Official Chorus of the BSO and Boston Pops Orchestras. I remember the iconic BSO announcer at the time, William Pierce, saying, “From Symphony Hall in Boston, this is a performance by the Boston Symphony Or-ches-tra (he enunciated each syllable in a very British manner), Seiji Ozawa, Music Director. Also assisting tonight is the Tanglewood Festival Chorus, John Oliver, Director, which is already on stage.” I remember asking my television: Hmmmmmm. Well usually you say, “Also assisting tonight is the New England Conservatory Chorus (he pronounced it the British way: Con-serva-tree) Chorus, Lorna Cooke de Varon, Chorus Director. So, what happened to the New England Conservatory Chorus that’s usually there? After that, I never saw the NEC Chorus again. I thought they had been kicked to the curb back down the street to the NEC. (The New England Conservatory is about a block away from Symphony Hall for those who don’t know). Maybe the NEC Chorus performed with the BSO after the founding of the TFC and those performances were not broadcast? That could be, or maybe I missed some performances. I don’t know. But usually, an Orchestra’s Official Chorus is the only Chorus that performs with them on a regular basis, such as the Chicago Symphony Chorus or the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra Chorus. That’s why orchestras have an Official Chorus to begin with. But anyway, Ms de Varon died in 2018.

As for this Vibrato Fad(TM), it is because of the caliber of choristers auditioning — I’m not necessarily referring to the NEC here, but in general — in that they can’t sing precisely on pitch so Chorus Directors are resorting to using vibrato to disguise that and any possible vocal technical problems they may have? To be clear, I’m merely making an enquiry as to why any serious Chorus Director worth his/her Conservatory or School of Music credentials would allow their choristers to abandon one of the very basic principles of choral excellence: Perfect intonation, where each section (SATB) sounds like one voice and not twenty or thirty voices, depending upon how many choristers are in each section. And because of this Vibrato Fad(TM), they sound more like an Opera Chorus with no perfect intonation than the desired Symphony Chorus they’re supposed to be. I tried to listen to the NEC performance of the Brahms’s Ein deutsches Requiem, Op. 45 with the NEC Philharmonia, but the New England Conservatory Concert Choir’s performance was ruined for me with their fluttery, wobbling vibrato especially in the soprano and alto sections, as if they were trying to emulate the currently beleaguered Tanglewood Festival Chorus, which James Burton is currently working to improve by the way. (I wonder how that’s going?) It has to be pretty bad for me to not be able to listen to a performance due to very noticeable fluttering and wobbling vibrato, but I had to click off. I played part of it for mi amigo/my friend and he couldn’t listen to it either for the same reason. His first words were, “Oh what a shame that they had to ruin it with vibrato. They look good as a Chorus, but no, I can’t take that vibrato either.” I did enjoy the Orchestra, what little of the performance I was able to listen to. I was wondering whether any of the musicians in the NEC Philharmonia were sitting there asking themselves, “Why does our Concert Choir sound like that? They sound as if they’re nervous or something, with all that fluttering, quivering and wobbling in their voices? It doesn’t sound good. Maybe we can cover them up, or at least we can try!” The NEC Philharmonia was excellent in the Brahms (as well as in the Schubert I mentioned up above). But again, what happened to the very basis concept of perfect intonation in choral excellence, which cannot be achieved with wobbling and fluttering? (Sigh).

The thinking these days seems to be: “If you can’t sing on pitch or have technical difficulties, just use vibrato. Nobody will know the difference. They’ll just say, “Oh they’re classically-trained.”

That’s about the extent of it!

The Rossini Stabat Mater that the University of Maryland Concert Choir will be performing with the National Symphony Orchestra in the Kennedy Center and in Carnegie Hall is not one of my favourite symphonic choral works because it’s so full of writing for vocal soloists, or more accurately, what I refer to as operatic screamers who don’t seem to know the difference between screaming and singing beautifully. It’s a rather common problem these days. The Rossini is too much like opera for me. Some people even refer to it as Rossini’s “sacred opera.” A sacred opera? I don’t know about that. Are some people calling it opera to justify the harsh-shrill screaming from the vocal soloists? Operas are usually not sacred or of a religious nature and operas involve costuming and scenery. There is neither costuming or scenery in performances of this piece. A Stabat Mater — which is a 13th-century Christian Hymn to the Virgin Mary portraying her suffering as Jesus Christ’s mother during his crucifixion — is usually a symphonic choral work, having nothing to do with opera. It sounds like someone is trying to confuse/blend genres, or does not know the difference between opera and symphonic choral music. From a choral standpoint, the best part of the Rossini in my opinion is more towards the end where the Chorus performs alone and with just the Orchestra. Of course, the piece wouldn’t have to be at all like opera if the soloists chosen didn’t sing like screaming opera divas. (Related: Is Opera music?) Assuming the University of Maryland Concert Choir sings with a lovely straight tone giving them perfect intonation, the soloists should/could come from the Chorus, and the soloists could also use their chorister voice. If they feel they must resort to turning on vibrato just because they’re serving as soloist, a tasteful amount would be sufficient. Does the score indicate: “To be sung with heavy, screaming and wobbling, fluttering, quivering vibrato” above all the solo passages in the piece? I suspect it doesn’t say that. So then, why the need for vibrato soloists? Why can’t the soloists in the Rossini for once sing beautifully like the soloists in this performance from Amsterdam in this Mass by Zelenka? Someone might say: “But no, Zelenka lived between 1679 and 1745, and Rossini lived between 1792 and 1868,” implying the singing styles should be different between the two periods: Baroque and Classical? Regardless, those soloists in the Zelenka performance are a pleasure to listen to. Unfortunately, of the performances I’ve heard of the Rossini, I’ve not been able to listen to any of them straight through because of the screaming heavy-vibrato soloists — which seems to be a requirement for this piece, especially with the rearing-back and wailing soprano screamer who seems to try to blow everyone off the stage with her piercing siren voice — where it’s unclear what pitches she and the other screamers are attempting to sing. That’s singing? I. Don’t. Think. So. Singing involves artistry. Anyone can scream. No talent or artistry required for that.

Well, hopefully the NSO/University of Maryland Concert Choir performance will have true artists serving as vocal soloists who possess the ability to sing spot-on pitch. But if I had to take a guess, considering how things are going here in the US with what seems to be a tacky heavy-vibrato fad, I suspect the audience might want to bring ear plugs — just in case — to dampen the noise from the vocal soloist-screamers who mistake screaming (with heavy-vibrato) for lovely, beautiful singing. And again, if the vocal soloists insist on singing with vibrato, why not use just a tasteful amount, such as the tasteful amount heard from soprano soloist Lydia Teuscher in this performance of Beethoven’s Choral Fantasy performed in Nihon/Japan. Performing forces in that video: The Saito Kinen Orchestra with pianist Marta Argerich, soprano Lydia Teuscher, Rie Miyake, alto: Nathalie Stutzmann tenor: Kei Fukui, Jean-Paul Fouchécourt, baritone: Matthias Goerne and the Seiji Ozawa Matsumoto Festival Chorus, all conducted by Seiji Ozawa. The OMF Chorus was excellent. They sang with perfect intonation.

One of my favourite Orchestra Choruses from Copenhagen performed some choruses from opera awhile back. They always sing with a lovely straight tone giving them perfect intonation and the finest of choral excellence. So I was hesitant to listen to their performance of a chorus from an opera. But I was very pleased with them, as well as surprised. Even when they perform opera, they use only a tasteful amount of noticeable vibrato. It was mostly noticeable in the sopranos and altos with a fluttery sound, but their superb Chorus Director had them add just the right amount of vibrato. I suspect some of the choristers had to work to sing with any noticeable vibrato since they normally don’t, fortunately. The Men didn’t really use any noticeable vibrato. They reminded me more of the Men of the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra Chorus under Robert Shaw. They had a darker, rich, warm sound than they usually do. But I enjoyed the opera piece from this Danmark Chorus (it was the same Chorus as in this performance of the Fauré Requiem). They are absolutely superb in all the symphonic choral works I’ve heard them perform. You can also hear their superb performance of the Brahms’s Ein Deutches Requiem here.

So when might we see the University of Maryland School of Music turn their performance venues into a serious recording studio like my favourite Orchestra (hr-sinfonieorchester/Frankfurt Radio Symphony) has done, or like the NEC has done with Jordan Hall, and have the UMD Concert Choir perform major symphonic choral works on a regular basis with the University of Maryland Symphony Orchestra? At least one a year, at minimum. I shouldn’t think that’s asking too much. If they had done what I’m suggesting when the centre opened, they would have at least 18 major symphonic choral works on their U-toob channel as of this writing for viewers to watch. And if their performances are as stellar as those one heard from Dr Paul Traver’s outstandingly superb University of Maryland Chorus over the decades — is anyone still talking about The Maryland Chorus these days in the School of Music or have they sort of been forgotten about? — their performances from the Clarice Smith Performing Arts Center would be thrilling to watch and hear. Chau.—el barrio rosa


What happened to the renowned University of Maryland Chorus?

BSO and the University of Maryland Concert Choir perform Brahms: Ein deutsches Requiem, Op.45

New England Conservatory’s U-toob Channel

Tangling with the Tanglewood Festival Chorus

New Chorus Director for the Tanglewood Festival Chorus