Radcliffe-Amherst Musicale

In Paine Hall

Like many joint concerts, Friday night's performance by the Radcliffe Choral Society and Amherst Glee Club served mainly to point out the contrasting technical approaches of their conductors.

Professor G. Wallace Woodworth has trained his Radcliffe group in the fundamental importance of vowels and consonants. He insists on carefully rolled r's and intense long vowels because, apart from textual clarity, only such treatment of the words can shape ensemble singing into a live and exciting sound. Closely related is his distinction between "covered" tone for soft passages and "open" tone for loud. Radcliffe's precise production of each type keeps the quieter music always vivid and makes for unusually brilliant climaxes. Above all, the Choral Society aims to entertain its audience; if their zeal occasionally sacrifices subtlety or stylistic nuance, it is worth the loss--this became particularly apparent in Britten's carol There Is No Rose.

Amherst conductor Charles W. Ludington seems not to share Professor Woodworth's views. Largely because of poor diction and breathy tone, the Glee Club's sound was nearly always pale in upper voices and muddy in the bass. These failings actually enhanced the plain chant Te Lucis, but consistently spoiled the music of later composers. Even Charpentier's lovely Magnificat almost became an insipid bore--despite the excellence of violinists John Goodkind and John Barson, and Harvard cellist Stephen McGhee. After a mediocre Schubert cantata, the visitors offered a Bacchanals from Offenbach's La Belle Helene. At its close, Mr. Ludington did a little dance and several singers made Chevaliertype faces. The mugging was almost as amusing as their French.

In closing, the choruses combined for three excerpts from Bach's B Minor Mass. As might have been expected, the Radcliffe sound often swamped Amherst--despite the ladies' obvious unfamiliarity with some passages. In addition, Paine Hall's overbright acoustics effectively smudged the counterpoint. The total impression was more of an impromptu singing party than a concert finale. ROSERY M. SIMON