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A festival of Russian, Czech, Norwegian and African songs

Viva (Norway), one of the choruses at the Serenade! choral festival. (Viva)

Nothing communicates quite like energy, and the choral program that opened the “2014 Serenade! Washington, D.C., Choral Festival” on Friday at St. Paul’s Episcopal Church in Alexandria crackled with it.

The Konevets Quartet, four jovial Russian men in bright tunics, led off, sighing extravagantly over songs of the homeland but waxing ecstatic when singing of pierogi with cheese.

The Ondrasek Youth and Children’s Choir, 40 girls strong, with arm and hand motions synchronized, sang its way through an eclectic set of pieces with a big, smoothly produced and well-modulated sound.

The 50 children (three boy baritones and the rest girls) of the Norwegian chorus VIVA dressed in brightly colored pants and T-shirts, danced their way through a group of Norwegian and African songs singing with a bright, enthusiastic vigor.

But the spirit of this enterprise was best summed up by the men of the Zimbabwean Insingizi trio. Their singing, dancing and drumming had the audience bouncing around with them, enthralled.

Ondrasek Czech Youth and Children’s Choir (Czech Republic) at the Serenade! choral festival. (Ondrasek Czech Youth and Children’s Choir)

The festival — this year a three-day-weekend of music, involving seven singing groups scattered around performing five concerts in five different venues — is an audience-pleaser, but the singers themselves get the most out of their association with groups from other countries, and during a rehearsal, the Zimbabwean trio taught the girls of the Ondrasek Choir one of its African songs. For an encore, the trio members invited the choir up to join them in their performance and then, as a finale, launched into their version of the Weavers’ classic, “Wimoweh,” bringing the whole audience singing, clapping and dancing along.

Reinthaler is a freelance writer.

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