Michael Daniel Music Fine Arts Critique – IUP Chamber Singers, American Aspects 5/1/2007 On April 30 the IUP

Chamber Singers performed a recital of American songs. The songs were generally solemn. Accompaniment was performed with saxophone and piano. One of the songs was performed on a vibraphone. The music was beautiful and most of it was in English but I had trouble hearing the lyrics because the vocals were so layered in most of the songs. This isn’t an issue with the skill of the vocalists. It is an issue with my ability to pick out words in a song. The vocalists demonstrated great skill. The Chamber Singers opened with Interpolations on Sicut Cervus by Giovanni Pierluigi da Palestrina. The vocal song was in Latin and was written in the 16th century. Accompaniment was with a saxophone performing jazz improvisation. The vocals rose and built as each note that was sung was held until they all stopped at once, creating a pause. After the pause the vocals would build again. While all of this was happening the saxophone was playing jazz melody over the vocals. After the performance I asked a vocalist about this style of music. He said that it is a contemporary style. Most of the music was solemn. The tempo was slow and female vocals were used a lot more than the male vocals. At times I had problems picking out whether they were in a minor or a major key because the music was so slow. The mood was generally minor. For example, in The Faery Beam Upon You the vocals sounded almost like a chant at times. When they changed notes I tried to notice when the key changed from minor to major but it was difficult until the second half of the song. In the second half of the song the lyrics became more layered. The vocals sounded shimmery, like a bell ringing. The harmonics were beautiful.

Canticle did not use vocals at all. It was played on a vibraphone, which is like a xylophone with pedals to stop the notes. The musician held two mallets in each hand with which she struck the keys. The music was extremely disjointed and simple. The musician would hit a few notes, let them ring for a moment and then stop the ringing and play more notes. There was no discernable rhythm. It sounded like effects from an old Science Fiction movie. I don’t know why The Chamber Singers performed it but it was nice. The conductor gave us some background on The Ballad of William Sycamore before it was performed. The song was written by Halsey Stevens, who was a bit of a revolutionary in his time as he was not accepted by the mainstream. He wrote The Ballad of William Sycamore as a kind of memoir or journal entry about a pioneer who grew up in the mountains and then moved West. The tone of the song was solemn, much like the rest of the songs performed. The IUP Chamber Singers ended on a high note when they performed J’entends le Moulin. This French song was in a quick 4/4 rhythm with many ¼ and 1/16 notes thrown in. It was played on piano and incorporated tongue clicks, snapping, clapping, and thigh slaps. The vocalists sang tique-tique-taque. It sounded like either a steam engine or a watch at different times. According to the program it was supposed to be carpenters building a house. I found it hard to picture that but then again I haven’t spent much time around carpenters building houses. This was the perfect song to end with because the rest of the performance was so slow and solemn. The audience needed something to wake them up a bit at the end. I had this song stuck in my head for hours after the performance.