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The Davison Concert

At Sanders Theatre

By Lawrence R. Casler

Last night's tribute to Professor Archibald. "Doc" Davison convincingly demonstrated his enormous contribution to all branches of choral music. The Harvard Glee Club, Radcliffe Choral Society, singing alumni, flashy trumpeters, and a cheering audience of dignitaries made the concert a dramatic success.

Each fact of Davison's genius was well illustrated. Eight of his own arrangements--four folk songs and four G. and S. choruses--showed a freshness and brightness that invite but defy imitation. Canto di Caccia and Tu Mi Vuoi were particularly effective, with their alternate blending and contrasting of voice parts.

"Doc," as teachers, received the most appropriate of birthday presents: songs by four of his most eminent pupils in honor of his seventieth birthday. Virgil Thomson's Kyrie Eleison, with a rhythmically free main line that seemed to float between sopranos and basses, had some startling harmonies and enough consistency to make it the most memorable of the four. Some rather academic music by Allen Sapp and Randall Thompson, and Henry Leland Clarke's complicated, episodic treatment of Happy Is the Man (Proverb 3:13) at least proved how very diverse Davison's influence has been.

Even more significant as an indication of his stature was the remainder of the program. The presence of works by Byrd, Bach, and Milhaud is, of course, directly attributable to Doc's revolutionizing the scope of collegiate glee clubs. Serious music of this sort, with difficulties for listeners as well as performers, is now an expected and fundamental part of any choral concert. Dufay's Gloria in Excelsis Deo was, for me, the high point of the evening. It pushes forward to the "Amen" with rhythmic ferocity--the strong beats of each phrase pile on top of one another, one tension is resolved by another, and the general excitement lasts even through the quieter music that follows.

The excellences of the Glee Club and Choral Society are so abundant that one almost takes them for granted. But last night their precision, vitality and complete immersion in the music set even higher standards. Perhaps their superlative performance was inspired by G. Wallace Woodworth, Davison's successor, who left a hospital bed to conduct them. Or perhaps it was their own tribute to the man who, retiring this year, is responsible directly or indirectly for their every success.

Last night's invitational concert will be repeated this evening for those fortunate enough to obtain tickets.

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