"I got the sun, got the moon," sang baritone Ben Holt, who also has a big, rich, superbly controlled voice that he used with larger-than-life dramatic impact last night in Constitution Hall, momentarily eclipsing the very large and capable Choral Arts Society. Holt came on, in the pop-oriented second half of the final concert of the American Guild of Organists' convention, with soprano Delcina Stevenson, an excellent partner in selections from "Porgy and Bess" and "Oklahoma!"
A third noteworthy soloist--technically the most remarkable of all--was countertenor Derek Lee Ragin, who sang in Leonard Bernstein's "Chichester Psalms." His tone production is not quite perfectly even throughout his range, but the top notes are magnificently clear and dead-center in pitch. Besides precision, he has a tonal richness and emotional expressiveness that were considered impossible for countertenors a generation ago.
And, of course, there was the audience. The evening opened with a "Star-Spangled Banner," sung by everyone present, that was by far the best sing-along performance of this work I have ever heard. The whole audience knew the words and sang them clearly and confidently with superb diction, expressive phrasing and totally secure intonation. It showed what can be accomplished by an audience containing more than 2,000 choir directors.
Confronted with such an audience, Norman Scribner and his chorus performed with special polish in Bernstein's Psalms, Horatio Parker's "Jam Sol Recedit," Constant Lambert's ultra-campy "Rio Grande" (with pianist Edward Polochick milking every known keyboard cliche' to its fullest capacity) and a series of pop numbers. The evening concluded with a "Stars and Stripes Forever" that brought the audience to its feet clapping in rhythm.