Robert White's third and final encore was (as it had to be) "Danny Boy," last night in the Terrace Theater. By then, the voice began to show slight signs of fatigue; high notes were less effortless; pitch was still accurate but ready to begin wandering; and tiny hints of raggedness had begun to appear in the exquisite tone. Although he claims "50 encores" in his repertoire, White wisely chose to stop while he was ahead. His voice is too precious a resource to be used carelessly.
White's program, aptly titled "Homage to John McCormack," was a bit late to be perfectly timely -- on the day after St. Patrick's, a year after the McCormack centennial -- but it was well worth waiting for. White's voice and style come remarkably close to McCormack's. He is particularly strong in the Italian and English repertoires, above all in music with a folk or bel canto flavor. His opening number, Scarlatti's "Le Violette," was perfectly styled -- light and clear in tone, precise in diction and tastefully ornamented with a voice that was beautifully controlled. The same virtues were evident in "Where'er You Walk" from Handel's "Semele," and the program was well launched.
In the exquisitely chosen German and French groups, White's diction was precise, his interpretations were musically and dramatically effective, but the style was more Irish than Continental. He ended with his strongest material -- Irish songs. They were all good in one way or another and superbly styled. In the songs that still have a close contact with their folk roots (notably "My Lagan Love" and "She Moved Through the Fair") the effect was almost magical.