An Artful 'Beau Soir' for RCS

Amy M. Sutherland

Soprano Katie Alexandra Woolf, assistant conductor of Radcliffe Choral Society, sings twentieth century art songs at the Society’s recital last Friday. RCS is raising money for its spring break trip to London.

Crestfallen violets, spurned lovers, and even Puss in Boots all made appearances last Friday night in an exciting recital of art song given by the Radcliffe Choral Society (RCS). “Beau Soir,” as the evening was aptly titled, proved to be an elegant assortment of lesser known gems from the greats; though the operas and symphonies of Mozart, Mahler and Brahms make frequent programmatic appearances, audiences are rarely given the opportunity to experience their lieds.

Given its simple nature and exclusion from a larger plot, the art song as a form stands little chance of earning the recognition the aria enjoys; a ditty addressed to gentle breezes is easily overshadowed by Mimi’s consumptive farewell. Yet, as the Society demonstrated, this neglect makes for an even more refreshing and exhilarating program when it is featured.

With sweeping satin dresses and glittering jewels, select members of RCS displayed a refinement of tone and maturity of timing in this small showcase, a performance matched only by their sound as an ensemble.

After the sweet, yet eerie, intervals of Debussy’s “Beau Soir” (“Beautiful Night”), sung by Jaclyn B. Granick ’08, the first half of the evening ended with a feisty rendition of Brahms’s “Vergebliches Ständchen,” (“Lovers’ Quarrel”) by Laurence H. S. Coderre ’07.

Soprano Katie Alexandra Woolf, the assistant conductor of RCS, assumed the stage for the latter half of the recital, bringing the audience into the twentieth century with songs by Francis Poulenc and Dominick Argento. Exuding charisma and charm, she switched in and out of her many roles with graceful composure, one minute a glass bottle frustrated with its childless condition, the next a moon-struck dreamer.

Staged to raise money for the Society’s spring tour to England, the concert attracted an audience with free tickets and suggested donation, while members sold hand-knit scarves at intermission.

Musically the evening was a success, although a more diverse voice representation would have made for a welcome change of color, as all the singers were soprano. Nonetheless, good music and good cheer made for a classy affair. Radcliffe Choral Society will perform on Friday, March 10 at 8pm in Sanders Theatre.

—Staff writer Madeleine J. Bäverstam can be reached at mbaverst@fas.harvard.edu