Countless performing ensembles have spent the past year paying homage to Bach and Handel, but few have had the courage to highlight the works of P.D.Q. Bach (a k a Peter Schickele), a composer who has proven himself a genuine master of the musical pun, put-down, take-off and joke. Saturday night at St. Alban's Trapier Theater, an intrepid band of faculty and adult students from the Selma M. Levine School of Music set things aright by presenting a glorious tribute to P.D.Q.
A benefit for Levine's Community Music Fund for scholarship and outreach, the concert included three of the composer's most infamous pieces: "The Trite Quintet," "Peru ckenstu ck," "The Hair Piece" aria from "The Civilian Barber," and the oratorio "The Seasonings." All were performed in the requisite P.D.Q. style, which demands as little taste and as much theatricality as possible.
"The Trite," which weaves together every hackneyed theme and musical cliche' imaginable, afforded its interpreters the chance to pluck, strum, beat and, in one case, even twirl their instruments in suitably deadpan fashion.
"Peru ckenstu ck," a marvelously unhinged mix of gargling, shaggy dog story, pregnant pauses and street slang, received a stunning performance by Rosa Lamoreaux, her hysterically hostile piano accompanist Betty Bullock and page-turner Pierre Fournier, who spent his time fondling Bullock and rolling his eyes at the diva's excesses.
"The Seasonings," a pun-filled ode to tarragon, leeks, cumin and sesame seeds, featured an orchestra composed of slide whistles, kazoos, shower hose and fog horn, as well as the more traditional instruments, a chorus decked out in robes and such accessories as purple sneakers, sunglasses and bow ties, and four preening, pursed-lipped soloists. Under the direction of Francis Conlon, the ensemble made a thoroughly engaging mockery of every bloated performance of a holiday oratorio that one has ever experienced.