Tag Archive: Greenville Chorale

Momentous Weekend



As a follow-up to my “too busy to post” post, thought I’d explain some of the goings on that I couldn’t discuss prior to the events. In that previous post I mentioned that Furman Commencement and the Greenville Chorale Concert were scheduled for the same time. What I didn’t mention was that I was supposed to be at both of those events.

Here’s the deal – Laura won the Meritorious Advising Award for Furman University this year. The award recognizes professors and administrators that have worked with students in planning their coursework throughout the year. In 2009 Laura had won the Meritorious Teaching Award. Now she has received both of Furman’s top honors. (more…)

Music for the Soul


Chamber Ensemble rehearsal

Today the Greenville Chorale Chamber Ensemble presents its winter concert at Furman’s Daniel Chapel. The program is entitled “Music for the Soul”, and the music was chosen to be both soothing and uplifting.

We start the concert with Gabriel Faure’s Requiem as the major work on the piece. I’ve performed this piece several times, and always enjoy it. We follow that with Mealor’s Ubi Caritas, which was written for the recent Royal Wedding, then a setting of O Sacrum Convivium by Dan Locklair. Next up are arrangements of two hymns, My Shepherd Will Supply My Need and Nearer My God to Thee.

The next piece is The Rune of Hospitality, and unusual piece by Alf Houkom that starts sounding like it has a secular text, but ends with a sacred message. That’s followed my Morten Lauridsen’s Sure On This Shining Night, which is a soaring, fabulous piece of music. We end the concert with the King’s Singers’ You Are the New Day, followed by a silly arrangement of The William Tell Overture, and we close with our signature tune, I Have Had Singing by Steven Sametz. It should be a good concert for a cold winter day.

For this concert I’ve been entrusted with making a recording. Every year we do a professional recording, but we wind up using the recordings I always do as a backup. This year they just decided to go with mine. No pressure there at all. Over the past two rehearsals I’ve been experimenting with placement and settings, and I think I’ve got it worked out. I’ll use two portable recorders placed up front, mostly toward the middle of the chapel. I’ll combine the output from both recorders for the final product so that I get a good balance. Here’s a taste of Monday night’s rehearsal recording of You Are the New Day…

Check this out on Chirbit

I also had my GoPro going during rehearsal. We first wanted to try to get Bing to wear it on his head…

Tom Taylor

…but he wouldn’t go for it. Instead, I set the camera up on a tripod and did a time lapse. Here it is set to a sped-up version of the William Tell Overture…

And of course, this being our winter concert, there is always a chance of inclement weather. It’s gotten to be a joke. There is always a threat of sleet, ice, or something on our concert. This year it snowed…


But, today the sun is out, the snow is mostly gone, and it should be a great day for a concert. We hope to have a full house.

Beethoven’s Ninth Video


Videographer Valdas Katovas recorded our spring concert, a performance of Beethoven’s 9th Symphony with the Greenville Symphony Orchestra and Greenville Chorale. This video is the entire fourth movement.

You can occasionally see me on the front row of the Chorale, next to the tympani and behind the trombones.

Beethoven No 9 from Valdas Kotovas on Vimeo.

O Freunde, nicht diese Töne


To Joy

Joy, thou beauteous godly lighting,
Daughter of Elysium,
Fire drunken we are ent’ring
Heavenly, thy holy home!

Thy enchantments bind together,
What did custom stern divide;
Every man becomes a brother,
Where thy gentle wings abide.

Be embrac’d, ye millions yonder!
Take this kiss throughout the world!
Brothers—o’er the stars unfurl’d
Must reside a loving father.

–Friedrich Schiller, 1786

Last night the Greenville Chorale joined forces with the Greenville Symphony Orchestra for a performance of Beethoven’s 9th Symphony.  The 9th is one of my favorite pieces, and I’ve had the privilege to perform it once before.  Last night’s performance, though was one of the most stirring I’ve ever experienced.

For the Chorale, the piece came together fairly quickly.  Many of us were familiar with the music, but also the chorus doesn’t sing that much in the concert.  We’re only there for the last half of the last movement of the piece – about 20 minutes worth. Bing Vick often let us out of rehearsals early, which was a nice change of pace.

However, that is a VERY challenging 20 minutes.  First there is the range.  The piece is written at the extreme upper vocal range for all parts.  I can’t think of another piece that has the basses singing a high F as many times and as long as this one does.  Then there was the tempo set by Maestro Tchivzhel – fast, then blindingly fast.  We had to squeeze a mouthful of German syllables into such a fast pace that I don’t think any of us got all of the words correct, even in the final performance.  Oh, yeah, they had to be on the right pitches and at the right dynamic, too.  It was a bear. (more…)

Sacred Music for a Sacred Space


St George from Choir Loft

Sunday afternoon the Greenville Chorale Chamber Ensemble presented its annual concert at St. George Greek Orthodox Cathedral. The concert was entitled “Sacred Music for a Sacred Space” and featured sacred music by contemporary composers. The pairing of music with venue was well-planned, and somewhat modeled the liturgy that might be followed in a traditional service.

Saturday morning we had our dress rehearsal in the cathedral, and I brought along my camera to get a few shots of the interior. I started with exterior shots…

St George Exterior 1

…then moved to the interior to photograph the stunning mosaics above the altar.

St George Interior 1

St George Interior 3

St George Interior 2 (more…)

Rapturous Music


I’m falling a bit behind in my blogging. I would claim that it was, indeed, another busy weekend with concerts, birthday parties, family illness, and all the other things that go into keeping a person hopping. Actually, I thought about giving up blogging all together since the world was supposed to end last Saturday, but that’s a different story…

…or is it?

Despite Harold Camping’s goofy claims for a “rolling Rapture” starting at 6:00 pm in whichever time zone one happens to find themselves, we were involved in something truly rapturous, as my friend Ken reminded us. Saturday night the Greenville Chorale presented Beethoven’s Missa Solemnis at the Peace Center, along with the Greenville Symphony.

We had been working on the piece for months. Even then, I wasn’t sure we were going to be able to pull it off. As director Bing Vick constantly reminded us, this was a marathon. The piece is extremely demanding, with tricky rhythms, incredible tempi, and notes at the extreme ends of the vocal range. More than once after rehearsal I came home with very little voice left.

Eventually, though, we began to pull it together. Rehearsing with orchestra did help, as we were able to hear our voice parts doubled in the instruments. However, even the orchestra struggled at times. Fortunately, the culmination did come with the concert Saturday evening, and everything went without a hitch. Afterward we had a nice reception to celebrate the Chorale’s 50th anniversary season and Bing Vick’s 30th year as its director.

So, this time next year it’s more Beethoven, but at least it’s a bit more familiar. We’ll be doing one of my favorites, the 9th Symphony. I’m looking forward to it.

Chorale Chamber Ensemble Winter 2011 Concert


This past weekend was a concert weekend for the Greenville Chorale Chamber Ensemble, so I wasn’t able to get much blogging done. We had rehearsals, then the concert itself Sunday afternoon in Daniel Chapel at Furman University.

This year we did the Rutter Requiem, accompanied by a small ensemble that included organ, harp, flute, oboe, cello, glockenspiel, and timpani.  That was followed by a set with lyrics about music.

Each year it seems like the sound of this 20 voice ensemble gets more and more cohesive.  I thought that this was one of the best blends we’ve ever had.  It helped that most of us were already familiar with the Rutter and several other pieces.  We were quickly able to get beyond learning the music to actually making music.

The concert went very well.  For once there was no threat of an ice storm and we actually played to a capacity crowd.  Everything was well received, and we also got a glowing review in the Greenville News.

If you didn’t make it to the concert, never fear.  I made audio recordings of the whole thing and have placed these online for download.  You can get them here.  It doesn’t substitute for actually attending a concert, but it might give one incentive to come to the next one.

Speaking of the next one, the entire Chorale will be performing the Beethoven Missa Solemnis on May 21st with the Greenville Symphony.  Should be another great concert.

A Carolina Christmas


Carolina Christmas

Last night the Greenville Chorale gave its Carolina Christmas concert at McAlister Auditorium at Furman. We were joined by the Hendersonville Symphony Orchestra, and we repeat the concert today at Mud Creek Baptist Church for the Hendersonville audience. (The photo above is from last year’s concert.)

We’ve been working on the music since mid-October. The tunes are familiar favorites, and it’s easy to get tired of them. That was happening here, and I wasn’t very enthusiastic about the performance. Thursday’s dress rehearsal seemed a bit sloppy. However, it all came together for the Friday concert, and both the orchestra and chorale sounded great, and were received very well by the near capacity crowd.

We’ve been collaborating with the Hendersonville group for several years now. I’m always amazed at how many extremely talented musicians there are in the area. There are our usual collaborators, the Greenville Symphony, who almost always sound fantastic, but the Hendersonville Symphony was just as clean and tight on their orchestral pieces last night. I enjoyed listening to “Waltz of the Flowers”, “Hansel and Gretel”, and “Greensleeves” as much as singing our own pieces.

Of course, there were a couple of not-so-stellar bits. “Angels We Have Heard on High” was a bizarre arrangement by Mark Wilberg that modulates just about ever other measure. It has to be pulled off flawlessly to make sense, and at one point the men came in so far under pitch that it took several measures to get back on track. We also did an arrangement of “Lo, How a Rose E’er Blooming” which we performed perfectly, but Laura still described it as “alien.”

In addition to these, there were sing-alongs and lots of familiar pieces. As much as I love traditional carols, particularly of the old British tradition, my favorite piece of the evening was a rollicking arrangement of “Merry Christmas” from the movie Home Alone. It has the making of a becoming a classic Christmas piece in its own right.

McAlister Auditorium was packed last night, and we are expecting a full house at Mud Creek in Hendersonville at 4:00 pm. I’m hoping we can keep the same energy last night for today’s concert.

The Chorale Does Verdi and Bernstein


This past weekend the Greenville Chorale joined forces with the Greenville Symphony for a concert entitled “Inspiring Voice” featuring the works of Leonard Bernstein and Guiseppi Verdi. It was probably one of the most enjoyable and stirring concerts we’ve done, and I think all went very well.

Local music critic Ann Hicks had this to say about the concert

Bombastic choral music at the heart of opera combined with modern nods to ancient text comprised the Greenville Symphony Orchestra€™s final Masterworks concert of the 2009-2010 season.

The concert, led by maestro Edvard Tchivzhel, fused orchestral might to the vocal power of the excellent Greenville Chorale in a program titled €œInspiring Voices€ at the Peace Concert Hall on Saturday night.

The entire evening proved to be both vocally and instrumentally inspirational.

Works by America€™s incomparable 20th century composer/conductor Leonard Bernstein filled the first half of the program, in which €œChichester Psalms€ was bookended by the Overture to €œCandide€ €” a jewel in any orchestra€™s repertoire €” and the operetta€™s closing duet, €œMake Our Garden Grow,€ elegantly delivered by the entire Chorale.

The deeply inspirational €œPsalms€ provided a perfect platform for the Chorale and for boy soprano Caleb Smith. The seventh-grader at Prince of Peace Catholic School, coached by Alan Reed, interpreted the 23rd Psalm in a clear, sensitive tone, phrasing the difficult Hebrew phonetics with confidence. His performance would have been even more compelling if the microphone had been placed closer to him.

The Chorale€™s massive vocal power found a perfect outlet in the Psalms€™ bold sonorities and transformative melodic passages. The singers delivered its sheer beauty with soul and raw energy, definitely making a joyful noise unto the lord. Spotted in the midst of the Chorale, singing his heart out, was its fine artistic director, Bingham Vick Jr.

The second half of the program was all Verdi, all the time. The vocal and instrumental narratives from the Italian composer€™s vast operatic repertoire included, among others, the auto-da-fe €œSpuntato Ecco,€ from €œDon Carlo,€ the stirring €œAnvil Chorus€ from €œIl Trovatore€ and, for a passionate, marching conclusion, €œGloria all€™Egitto€ from €œAida.€

The music was very challenging.  We had to learn rapid-fire Italian and Hebrew, and my having braces didn’t help with that process.  However, as with all things that are a challenge, often the rewards justify the hard work.  It wasn’t until the last couple of weeks that the music actually became fun for us.  Now that the concert is over, I find myself humming the melodies.

I feel fortunate to be able to perform with a group like this and do music of this caliber.  I’m not a huge opera fan, but it’s impossible to not be taken away by Verdi’s Anvil Chorus (complete with brake drum anvils.)  Everyone should have a chance to at least hear this music live.  There is nothing like it.

All Hail the Cimbasso!



This is a concert weekend for us. The Greenville Chorale is performing a selection of works by Leonard Bernistein and Giuseppi Verdi. The first performance last night went very well (more on that in a later post).

The repertoire called for some unusual instruments, including two brake drums hit by standard hammers for Verdi’s Anvil Chorus, and a sheet of metal struck to simulate thunder in Verdi’s Witches Chorus from Macbeth.

Acoutrements for the Anvil Chorus

However, the instrument that really puzzled us and caught our attention was the cimbasso.  As shown in the photo at the top of this post, it looks like a cross between a trombone and a tuba.  It turns out that is pretty much it’s function, too.  It fills a niche by providing an instrument in the bass range of a tuba, but with more of the tonal qualities of a trombone. (more…)

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