Summer School Chorus
In a day when definitive performances can be purchased for the price of a plastic disc, one often wonders what peculiar force continues to attract listeners to a concert given by amateurs. The near-capacity crowds at Sanders during the past two Thursday nights suggest however, that Audio-Lab has yet to monopolize the listener's world. Last night Prof. Harold Schmidt of Stanford conducted the Summer School Chorus and Cantabrigia Orchestra in a program that was as varied in quality as it was in repertoire. Realizing that an entire evening of full chorus and orchestra would be a dubious effort on only seven weeks of rehearsal, Schmidt wisely reduced his voices to madrigal size for part of the concert. Not surprisingly, the most sensitive performances came from these smaller ensembles. Monteverdi's Tirsi e Clori, a ballo concertato for two soloists, strings and chorus, was performed with taste and elegance. The solos were handled creditably by Jacqueline Goodspeed and Henry Gibbons.
The program opened and closed with two "heavies" from choral literature. Brahms' Schick-salslied, Op. 54, is one of those perrenial favorites of college glee clubs, not terribly difficult to put together and always effective. The singers also made the most of Holderlin's Weltschmerz. Accompanist Robert Kopelson's two-piano arrangement was the best thing next to a full orchestra. He and Lowell Lindgren played it admirably, managing to succeed in spite of Prof. Schmidt's inconquerable compulsion to conduct even them.
For the Beethovan Mass in C, Op. 86, Joel Lazar's Cantabrigia Orchestra joined the chorus to give a performance which had moments of both inordinate inspiration and egregious sloppiness. Coordination between the two forces was haphazard, this due to Schmidt's sacrificing clarity of beat in favor of a continuous, feverish intensity of motion. He huffed and he puffed, he grimaced with grief, he smiled with beatific joy. Sometimes he succeeded (usually in fortissimo passages), but most often he was unable to convey any unified conception of this difficult and eccentric master-piece. Of the four vocal solists, Barbara Wallace's beautiful soprano line was so expansive that it all but obscured the others.
The evening's sole venture into the contemporary idiom was unfortunately more a venture into the field of corn. Kirke Mechem's The Shepherd and His Love was given its first performance. This frivolous piece of trivia proved to be little more than a sophisticated homage to Richard Rodgers. But it was performed with spirit and must have pleased the composer who was present for the occasion.
All shortcomings aside, people left Sanders convinced that these students liked to make music and that Harold Schmidt liked to conduct.