Sanders Theatre holds 1200 persons; this many together with a good hundred extra came to the theatre for the concert given Thursday night by the Summer School Chorus. Those able to force their way inside were well rewarded. For the Chorus, about 160 strong, sang enthuiastically and well.
Two selections from the work of Ralph Vaughan Williams opened the program. With Miss Jacqueline Goodspeed as soprano soloist, the Chorus performed Williams' "O Taste and See," a setting of Verse 8 of the 34th Psalm. The general effect was pleasing; and even better things were soon to come. Regardless of whatever else it can do, a group as large as the Chorus ought to be able to sing with power. And the Summer Chorus, with its stops let out, was overwhelming. The second of the opening compositions, "O Clap Your Hands," proved this beyond a shadow of doubt. Scored for chorus, brass, and percussion, "O Clap Your Hands" is a jubilant setting of verses from Psalm 47. The Chorus sounded most convincingly jubilant.
It is said that during rehearsals conductor Iva Dee Hiatt (of Smith College) called forth this attitude by fervent references to her home institution and its undergraduates' most exuberant moments (an invitation from Yale, etc.). Whatever the merits of these tactics, there can be little doubt that Miss Hiatt is an effective conductor. Under her direction, the Chorus marched through the evening with a most un-amateur precision; attacks were sharp and clear, the tone clear and even.
A case in point was Hindemith's "Apparebit Reprentina Dies," the other work before the intermission. Though intricate and complex, it was by no means too much so for the Chorus. The piece, incidentally, has a long-standing connection with Harvard--Hindemith wrote it in 1947 for a symposium on musical criticism held here. When the work was performed, he himself conducted the Harvard Glee Club and the Radcliffe choral Society. But it is unlikely that the singing then was a great deal better than last night's.
Now inspite of all this praise, it just wouldn't be a Crimson review if it didn't say something nasty. "Apparebit Repentina Dies" requires a brass ensemble, and the ensemble we heard Thursday night deserves a disparaging remark or two. Hindemith is not easy going, and the instrumentalists could have benefited from a few more rehearsals. Though there were no major disasters--indeed, no real threats of any--their overall performance was a bit on the ragged side.
After the intermission, a smaller group--the Summer School Chamber Singers--sang six Elizabethan Madrigals. The change from the Hindemith was striking, and quite effective. The blending between the different voice parts, and between the voices and the instrumental ensemble that accompanied several of the madrigals, was superb.
The remainder of the evening was taken up with two settings of the communion hymn 'ave Verum Corpus," one by Josquin des Pres and the second by William Byrd. Both were good (That's right, there are so many favorable adjectives in this that the supply is running pretty low). The concluding work on the program, Schutz's version of Psalm 84, was also competently performed. In all, it was quite a concert. Someone had quite evidently put a lot of work into it.