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BPC Professor Reviews ORCA Offering
Thursday, 19 February 2009

February 19-- Editor's Note:  The following review is by Brewton Parker Assistant Professor of Music Kandie Smith.

      Vidalia, Georgia – Audiences were treated to an exciting and unusual concert on Thursday, February 5th.  Looking at first glance like a typical professional choir, the American Spiritual Ensemble quickly proved they were anything other than typical as they regaled the attendees with a wide variety of solos, duets, ensembles and choral selections drawn from opera to spirituals to Broadway.

     The diversity of the program was matched by the diversity of the twenty-three singers comprising the group.  Founded in 1995 by director Everett McCorvey, the American Spiritual Ensemble boasts members who have enjoyed significant careers on Broadway and in the best opera houses of the world, including the Metropolitan Opera; Houston Grand Opera; Theater des Westens in Berlin, Germany; Dallas Opera; Chicago Opera; Chatauqua Opera; Teatro Colon Buenos Aires, and dozens of others.  Each a seasoned professional and soloist in her/his own right, the members are also winners of numerous top prizes in prestigious voice competitions, including the Concours de France; the Franz Schubert Institut Prize of Austria; the Metropolitan Opera National Council Auditions; the International Meistersinger Competition in Austria, and many more.

     For those eagerly anticipating the choral experience offered by ensembles like the Robert Shaw Chorale or the Saint Olaf Choir, this concert may have proven a bit unsatisfactory.  In this performance, the artistry was driven by the virtuosity of each performer rather than the blended sound usually prized by choral conductors.  Audiences did not appear to mind, however, as they shouted approval and rose to their feet more than once during this ninety-minute concert.

     Amid a concert filled with excellent numbers, several seemed to particularly affect the audience, such as Celesta Day’s solo rendition of Give Me Jesus; the choral ensemble I Want To Be Ready featuring soprano soloist Hope Koehler; Moses Hogan’s The Battle of Jericho; baritone Ricky Little singing I Want Jesus to Walk With Me; the soulful rendition of Oh Redeemed offered by bass Laurence Albert, and Old Man River sung by Kevin Thompson.  Over and over again audience members sustained long applause, whooped and leapt to their feet in response to the visceral performances offered by this outstanding group skillfully lead by founder McCorvey and gracefully accompanied by Edrin Blair Lindsay.  The concert closed with an exciting rendition of The Circle of Life from The Lion King during which the ensemble moved into the audience and sang among the concert attendees.  It was a superb ending to an exciting evening.

     This performance of the American Spiritual Ensemble, sponsored by Darby Bank, Meadows Regional Medical Center and DOT, was presented by the Ohoopee Regional Council for the Arts as part of their 19th season.  For more information on upcoming concerts including the Atlanta Brassworks, please contact ORCA at 912-538-8459.


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