Singing together is one of the great and unifying pleasures we humans enjoy, and in so many ways, Saturday’s program at the Church of the Epiphany downtown, part of the Serenade! Washington, D.C. Choral Festival, was a celebration of these pleasures.
In this year’s festival, nine choruses from five countries are participating in 18 concerts around the Washington area. Their repertoires are broad and, for the most part, contemporary. Most of the singers are young, in their teens. Perhaps the most celebratory reflection of singing’s pleasures was the concert’s dedication to helping support the Welcome Table Choir, a chorus of homeless individuals who come together downtown regularly to enjoy a meal for their bodies and a song for their souls. Their conductor, Hubert “Peate” Peques, kicked off the concert with a gospel-song welcome that set the bar high for the four choruses that followed him.
Australia’s Young Adelaide Voices showed off their rhythmic energy, Minnesota’s Minnetonka Chamber Choir were elegantly in tune and had a relaxed vibrato-less delivery, and the Voices of Namibia did a sophisticated take on the European pieces in their repertoire that morphed into irresistible dance when they launched into music from their own country. Those groups and the children of the Boston City Singers, who mustered both feathery light sonorities and huge sounds, were all quite splendid in their 30-minute hunks of the program, but the afternoon’s emotional high and strongest affirmation of singing’s power came when the men and women of the Imilonji KaNtu Choral Society from South Africa (not even listed on the program) and members of the Voices of Namibia Choir came up front to jam with the Boston kids. And what a jam it was. Led by Imilonji KaNtu conductor Gobingca George Mxadana, drum in hand, the whole bunch sang, danced, clapped and whooped it up in a joyful noise that brought the audience to its feet cheering.