Dallas — Since this was my first visit, I didn’t quite know what to expect when I attended the concert presented by The Woman’s Chorus of Dallas on Dec. 8. What I discovered was a delightful, unpretentious, and musically satisfying concert that celebrated the holiday season with a combination of Christmas, Hanukah, secular seasonal selections, and a touch of show biz. I also heard some excellent singing, well conducted by Music Director Melinda Imthurn, and accompanied by Will Varner on the piano assisted by a string quintet. But most importantly, I felt the camaraderie of all assembled — singers, instrumentalists and audience.
Let me get my complaints out of the way. Program notes would have been helpful since some of the music was unfamiliar and the hall was too dark to follow the program. That said, I enjoyed everything else.
The international flavor came from Marie Claire Saindon’s “Le Secret de Dieu,” which was a lovely discovery. “Ogo ni fun Oluwa!” (“Glory to God in the Highest”) by Rosephanye Powell was sung in the original Kwa language of the Yoruba, and it brought African cross-rhythms and celebratory rejoicing. “Five-sided S’vivon” by Robert Applebaum, a dreidl-based song, was sung in Hebrew and reminded us that this season is more than Christmas.
On the humorous side, they presented pianist Will Varner’s sendup of seasonal sibilants that suffering singers sound out persistently titled “Sing a Silly Song of the Season.” Varner was represented by some other, more serious, selections and arrangements, such as the melancholy “Snowfall” and “Bleak Midwinter.” But his arrangement of a collection of snow-based songs was the campy contribution, complete with a cadre of tap-dancing Suzie Snowflakes. Frosty the Snowman even came in from the cold when we all sang along with his song and a sing-along with “Have a Holly Jolly Christmas” summoned a pair of Santas who sashayed across the stage.
They sang two interesting movements from a work by Jocelyn Hagen that they previously commissioned that made me curious about the entire piece.
An arrangement of the Ella Fitzgerald hit, “Hotta Chocolatta,” was a hit as was the completely different arrangement of Ann Hampton Calloway’s “The Hope of Christmas.” But the most fun arrangement was some seasonal carols set to music from Tchaikovsky’s The Nutcracker, the “Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy.”
The North Texas Metroplex Children’s Chorus, under the direction of Ann Smith, and the Rangel Girls’ Choir under the direction of Arkette Baptiste, made delightful guest appearances to remind us that this is a season for all, but especially for the children.
The concert ended somberly with the singers lining the aisles of Dallas’ Moody Concert Hall leading us in singing “Silent Night” and ending with “Let There be Peace on Earth” by Sy Miller and Jill Jackson.
And Amen to that sentiment, for sure. The title of the concert was Chillin’ but I found it to be heart warmin’ as well.