The audience spontaneously stood for two numbers during the Morgan State University Choir concert Monday night. The first was the "Hallelujah" chorus, sung early in the program, and the second was the Black National Anthem ("Lift Every Voice and Sing"), sung at the close. This natural response underscored how genuinely the choir had communicated its heartfelt enthusiasm to the listeners.
Performing at the Smithsonian's Baird Auditorium, the singers numbered about 40, representing the full 100-voice choir trained on the Baltimore campus. Under the kinetic direction of Nathan Carter, the students began with a polished performance of an excerpt from John Rutter's "Gloria." In excerpts from Handel's "Messiah," they gave brisk, vibrant readings: The "Glory to God" chorus was lightly accented with staccato inflection and crisp diction.
In a suite of Christmas spirituals by Robert de Cormier, accompanist Kay Pace skillfully supported the students in such songs as the lilting "Rise Up, Shepherd" and the snappy "Shout for Joy." It was a pleasant surprise to see Pace give two choir members a turn at the piano and, likewise, to watch Carter invite a singer to direct the chorus.
The soloists did fine work, and they certainly didn't need the microphone that was awkwardly lifted up onto the stage near the end of the concert. Baird Auditorium is a small, intimate hall, and the amplification of the strong solo voices was almost deafening at times.