By Alfred Thigpen
Special to The Washington Post
Sunday, January 9, 2011; 5:40 PM
What? No Charles Ives? For its sesquicentennial concert at Strathmore, Yale's Glee Club might have cited the name of the famous Yalie composer or rationed out more than a passing fight song. Even so, Friday's sellout audience heard an opera-length concert featuring jazz pianist John Eaton, Whim 'n Rhythm, the Yale Whiffenpoofs, alumni singers and, finally, the Glee Club itself, which broke the mold decades ago with the inclusion of women - clearly the right choice.
Under the direction of Jeffrey Douma, sopranos sang as one instrument and with flawless intonation. There was uniform vowel placement and the proscription of vibrato, which can sound like the choral equivalent of uneven pavement. Without this discipline, the contemporary sacred works of James MacMillan and Robert Vuichard would have fallen like bad souffles. Instead, their treacherously clustered semitones and contrapuntal subtleties became otherworldly, transcendent even.
In a evening laced with truly commendable performances, the only standing ovation - scattered but richly deserved - went to senior Whiffenpoofs member Nathan Calixto for his performance of "Salley Gardens." Jokingly referred to as the group's "cash cow," Calixto, with his Rostropovich-like high baritone, momentarily erased the infamy that was 2010. This is Yale's rising star.
Friday's concert was the final stop on the glee club's U.S. winter tour with an eight-city international schedule this summer. We can only hope that the Mayans were wrong about impending doom in 2012. With the backing of Yale's prowess and ambassadorship, clearly Douma is taking his group into a strongly viable third century.
Thigpen is a freelance writer.