Monday, June 2, 2014

Masterworks Chorale's Collage VII: Many Voices, One World

The dancers floated elegantly on the stage, lovely in flowing pastel costumes, as the chorale lifted its voice in songs by Antonio Estevez, Henk Badings, Allister MacGillivray, Ro Ogura, Giacomo Puccini, and Jean Baptiste Lully. Songs from Venezuela, Korea, the Netherlands, Canada, Japan, Italy and France.  A cultural stew. A synergy of ethereal movement and ethereal sound.

It was the opening program of Collage VII, a collaborative performance of the Masterworks Chorale, under the artistic direction and baton of Timothy Cloeter, and the Ballet Theatre of Toledo, led by Nigel Burgoine.  The music from around the world and the lovely ballet together transported us to heaven.  

The Four Points Off, a versatile barbershop quartet, whose members met through the Men's Chorus at BGSU, brought us down to earth with wonderful renditions of After You've Gone, Irish Lullaby, and John Denver's Take me Home, Country Roads.  It was hard to keep from standing up and singing along, so engaging were the intricate harmonies.

Then we floated up again to the iconic classical jazz tune of My Funny Valentine, accompanied by a love dance duet that was as sweet as honey, followed by another jazz standard, Sweet Georgia Brown, with a solo by Gwen Senerius. Love knows no boundaries.

The performances perfectly illuminated the theme of Collage VII, "One World, Many Voices."   The selected songs and dances enshrined the universal values of love and harmony, transcendent, glorious, a world without borders.  What a much-needed contrast to the sorry state of our conflicted and violent world.  

The riffing on the theme knew no boundaries either.  The ALMA Dance Experience (Yaya Kabo, artistic director) rocked the house with West African sounds and movements, powerful dancing and drumming.  I loved that these dancers were real women of all shapes and ages dancing their hearts out, soulful and sensuous. They embodied an ageless beauty that truly inspired.  The Four Points Off  returned with Mellow, My Baby, Darkness on the Delta, and Coney Island Baby, covering a geography of musical traditions.  Call and response. Perfect!

Collage VII closed with the Masterworks Chorale's lovely rendering of Four Slovak Folk Songs by Bela Bartok, then took us to Scotland with the incomparable Loch Lomond (Dan Ferguson, solo, in Scottish dress), and back again to America with His Voice as the Sound and Hark I hear the Harps Eternal (Alison Reed, solo), songs by American composers and arrangers Robert Shaw and Alice Parker.

Such an intelligent and creative selection of songs and pairings of performances, one flowing into another; such a diversity of musical and dance traditions; so many different voices!  And yet, this thoughtful program, from beginning to end, trumpeted the sounds of a humanity united, of harmonious relations across cultures and borders.   "I hear the Harps Eternal."

Collage VII: One World, Many Voices
Masterworks Chorale
Tim Cloeter, Artistic Director and Conductor
The Valentine Theater, Toledo, Ohio
May 31, 2014

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