YOUNG VOICES OF MADISON – Friday, May 19, 2006 – Live from the Overture Center for the Arts
(2006 Audio for the Arts)
written by Judy Brady
Under the direction of Scott Foss, the Young Voices of Madison presented a multi-faceted and engaging choral concert, “A Quodlibet Mass,” at the Overture Center for the Arts last May. Foss, who conducted the choir and the Young Voices of Madison Orchestra, constructed a program that embraced the talents of seven regional high school choirs (Madison East, West, LaFollette, and Memorial; McFarland, Middleton and Mt. Horeb). In the liner notes, Foss explains his use of the term “quodlibet” as an overarching concept, one that reflects the reality of choosing material appropriate with the experience levels of the various choirs while pushing the creative envelope for everyone involved. Foss describes the YVM concert as a refreshing program with a “whimsical combination of familiar composers and compositional styles.” The listener, however, should not let “whimsical” suggest a lack of seriousness or professionalism—Young Voices of Madison represents a highly versatile and unswerving ensemble dedicated to creative excellence and musical vitality.
True to his word, Foss’s eclectic program weaves its way through a solid orchestral introduction from 20th-century American composer Aaron Copland (although not “Copeland”…as the notes indicate) to Italian violin virtuoso Antonio Vivaldi to selections from the beloved Fauré Requiem, specifically the “Pie Jesu” and “Agnus Dei.” Foss chose soloists from the larger chorus to suit the particular needs of each selection, usually with satisfying results. Perhaps, however, on “Pie Jesu,” one soprano could have handled the task better than two; on this particular piece, the young women’s voices don’t mesh as well as on others (for example, the three female soloists on track 3, Vivaldi’s “Quoniam Tu Solus Sanctus,” seem especially suited to each other’s vocal timbres).
The most satisfying selections may feel the least familiar. Canadian composer/pianist Ruth Watson Henderson (b. 1932) has developed a distinct choral style clearly demonstrated in “Sing All Ye Joyful.” The full chorus displays the tantalizing combinations of modern harmonies that the human voice can exploit to the fullest, proving that simple alterations to conventional voice phrasing can create a mesmerizing textural ambience (especially noticeable three minutes into in the piece). Likewise, “Sanctus” by the prolific composer/publisher Craig Courtney is performed with full chorus and no orchestra, highlighting the complexity and overlap of melodic lines and the unfettered grace of sacred choral music.
Kudos to the Young Voices of Madison Orchestra and the recording engineers at Audio for the Arts for capturing and enhancing the nuance and atmosphere of the performances.