The groups that paraded their wares at the “Best of Serenade!” concert at Strathmore on Sunday represented the idea of “chorus” in the broadest possible sense. There was everything, from the 24 voices of Poland’s Wroclaw Philharmonic Choir and the more than 30 boys and young men from Florida’s Singing Sons Boychoir to the four guys of Canada’s the Watch, who hammed it up by imitating (convincingly) instrumental jazz riffs throughout their amplified set.
Eastern Europe, represented in this program by Russia, Poland and Latvia, is producing some singers with spectacularly high ranges but, perhaps, at the expense of the solid, low basses that some of their repertoire requires. Also, these groups should probably scrap the orchestral imitations. Neither the Latvian Voices’ rendition of a Bach prelude nor the Russian Singers’ version of “Flight of the Bumblebee” really worked; the Swingle Singers do this kind of thing much better.
The groups were at their best in arrangements of folk songs or folk-influenced pieces. The 10 men of the Russian Singers let go and waxed jolly in the drinking song “Russian Feasting.” The Wroclaw group, beautifully balanced and coordinated, produced impressive dynamic flexibility throughout its set.
The six-voice Australian Voices SIX, featuring mostly close-harmony arrangements, gave a cool performance of the rhythmic complexities of Lisa Young’s “Other Plans.” The Florida Boys romped and pantomimed with unforced but energetic accuracy through a setting of “The Cremation of Sam McGee.”
The most intriguing performances of the afternoon, however, were those of the seven women of Latvian Voices, who sang with a kind of ritualistic serenity, using space (individuals facing away from the audience at times, or standing in scattered formations) and some unusual vocal production to weave their spells.
Reinthaler is a freelance writer.