Town Topics — Princeton's Weekly Community Newspaper Since 1946.
Vol. LXI, No. 50
Wednesday, December 12, 2007
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Glee Club’s Rich Variety of Choral Music Ushers in Holiday Season at Richardson

Nancy Plum

Choral music is in the air at Christmas time, and the Princeton University Glee Club and Chamber Choir ushered in the holiday season at Richardson Auditorium on Friday night. Beginning with a chant “Antiphon” sung by disembodied voices outside the hall, the concert programmed by conductor Richard Tang Yuk presented Christmas music from several periods, with a heavy emphasis on the twentieth century.

The anonymous Antiphon introduced the concert in a medieval tone, with baritone Adam Fox leading the men of the Glee Club in the responsorial chant. The singers set the Christmas mood further with a candlelight procession to a taped organ “Preludium” — fitting for the space even though there has not been a pipe organ in Richardson in quite a while. The performance which followed these introductory works demonstrated a choral sound which was rich, full and clean.

The 50+-voice Glee Club was well spread out onstage, adding to the solidity of the choral sound. A rich women’s vocal tone marked Felix Mendelssohn’s motet Weihnachten; the full-bodied soprano sound exemplifying how conductor Tang Yuk encourages these students to fully sing. Rather than attempt to homogenize the choral voices, Dr. Tang Yuk allows the sound to freely flow from the stage.

The Princeton University Glee Club and Chamber Choir next perform on Saturday March 1, 2008 in a concert of Johann Sebastian Bach’s music.

A smaller chamber choir (including some singers who were not members of the Glee Club) performed Vaughan Williams’ The Blessed Son of God, singing with sensitivity, and precisely speaking all consonants simultaneously. This choral precision continued in Watch Night, a starkly dissonant piece by one of America’s most popular up-and-coming choral composers, Eric Whitacre. In this piece, the sopranos were able to reign in vibrato, and Dr. Tang Yuk did an impressive job bringing the chorus to a controlled forte, depicting well the desolateness of the piece.

Besides presenting the University’s premiere choral ensembles, this concert also showcased a number of student soloists. Among the most notable was soprano Paavana Kumar, who lyrically sang the Bach-Gounod arrangement of Ave Maria, accompanied lithely by Dan Berry.

Also impressive was newcomer Carolina Gamboa-Hoyos, who is serving as Assistant Conductor to the choirs this year. Ms. Gamboa-Hoyos conducted the Glee Club in a “Bullerengue” by Colombian composer José Antonio Rincon. Ms. Gamboa-Hoyos decisively brought out the swing of this piece, based on a Colombian dance, deriving an especially nice sectional sound from the tenors, aided by tenor soloist Tim Keeler.

Rather than focus on one masterwork for the holiday season, this concert presented a number of choral “odds and ends” revolving around the Christmas theme. Some of the pieces were by no means easy, and both the Glee Club and Chamber Choir sounded as rich and powerful as they ever have. The ensembles have several large works programmed for the spring, and will surely rise to the musical challenge.

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