There is a sonority produced by men's choruses that is like no other, and since the demise, in the mid-19th century, of the English glee clubs, almost the only places you could go to wallow in this sound have been college campuses. Fortunately, Washington is on the itinerary of the annual tours of a great number of excellent college glee clubs. Even more fortunately, Washington has now spawned its own such chorus, the Washington Men's Camerata, whose conductor -- singer-composer Thomas Beveridge -- is a product of Harvard's Glee Club program, one of the finest in the country.
On Saturday night, the Washington Men's Camerata and the Cornell University Glee Club (conducted since 1957 by Thomas Sokol, another chip off the Harvard block) collaborated on a concert at Georgetown University's Gaston Hall. The program was a nice mix of traditional male glee club repertoire -- the Lotti "Crucifixus," Fine's "Father William," Tchesnokov's "Salvation Is Created" and pieces by Schubert and Vecchi -- with less familiar fare by Janacek and some wonderful settings of Welsh songs. The concert ended with all the Cornell Glee Club alumni in the audience joining this year's group on the stage for a set of Cornell songs.
Sokol's 50-man ensemble sang with a light flexibility and with the security that comes with having memorized the music. Diction was exemplary and the Janacek "Ave Maria," in particular, was sung with considerable power.
Beveridge is building a repertoire of Welsh and Russian works, sung in the original languages, and the Camerata was at its best in a Roberts arrangement of a Welsh folk song about counting goats.