Dallas — The Women’s Chorus of Dallas is one of a handful of local performing arts groups that gives those of us with day jobs a place to practice our musical skills. They are a community chorus, meaning a volunteer group of folks who love to sing. For their winter Sleigh Ride concert on Dec. 2, under Artistic Director Melinda Imthurn, they were joined by the musicians of the Texas Chamber Music Project, a community orchestra led by conductor Thomas Connely, and the Singing Girls of Texas, a youth choir led by Director Hans Grim.
They nearly filled Moody Performance Hall for their holiday offering, and little wonder. Friends and family evidently comprised a considerable percentage of the audience, as evidenced by whisperings of “Oh, she’s seventh from the left there on the second row” and the like. But this was a concert that chorus and orchestra members could be proud to share with their loved ones.
The performance itself was more organized and well-paced than many from full-time professional ensembles. Entrances and exits from the stage were beautifully choreographed, and keyboard accompanist Will Varner provided fill music in between vocal numbers.
Those vocal numbers themselves were somewhat uneven—the reality of community groups such as these is that the type and quality of voices will vary substantially, which affects blending. But it can also add charm. Offerings by the chorus’ chamber singers, Vivacious!, included solo turns by women whose voices ranged from coloratura trills to gospel-influenced belts.
The chorus on the whole was well-prepared. Ensemble and pitch were remarkably good. The repertoire, too, was generally well-thought-out, including the German carol “Kling, Glöckchen, Kling,” that induced a wave of nostalgia for my high school German classes, and “Durme, Durme,” a Ladino folk song.
The only mystifying addition was the Texas Chamber Music Project’s rendition of Mendelssohn’s Hebrides Overture immediately after intermission. I suppose it was intended as a tie-in to the carol that followed, “Hark! The Herald Angels Sing,” also written by Mendelssohn. But it seemed strangely out of place in a concert otherwise focused on holiday music. The orchestra, like the chorus, was rather uneven, though for a community orchestra, it does many things well. Articulations were consistent within and between sections, and ensemble was tight. Pitch was a bit hit-or-miss, but some individual players, such as the first clarinet, listed in the program as George Landis, were outstanding.
Here in the Metroplex, we are so fortunate—not only do we have opportunities to hear world-class ensembles, but as amateur and part-time musicians we have the chance to play or sing with groups such as these, who create community and connection, plus some fine music to boot.