Posted at 6:13 PM on January 18, 2009
by John Birge
A morning drive from Oxford brings the VocalEssence tour to Birmingham for a quick lunch, dress rehearsal, and 3pm concert at Birmingham's Town Hall:
This hall just underwent a first-class renovation, adding subtle modern acoustical touches, while restoring the feeling Mendelssohn must've had when he was the first person to play the magnificent organ:
Mendelssohn's Elijah was premiered here, as was Elgar's oratorio "The Dream of Gerontius," which received its Midwest premiere by VocalEssence some years ago). While in Oxford, composer and former King's Singer Bob Chilcott said Town Hall is now one of the premiere concert destinations in England, especially for choral music. From the dress rehearsal:
Here, the Ensemble Singers sound wonderful; all the way to the back row, powerful and precise. And those descriptors aren't mine. They were used by a chap I spoke with over coffee during "the interval" (as it's called in England). He's a singer in the City of Birmingham Symphony Chorus. He said their director had recommended the VocalEssence concert to his Birmingham choristers as a chance to hear one of the outstanding vocal groups in America, with a bigger, more versatile sound, and a bolder attitude. And he loved the all-American repertoire, a rarity here.
Next, on to London for Day 3. No public concert scheduled, but VocalEssence performs, and Philip Brunelle will be interviewed on BBC Radio 3's "In Tune" program, which is a live music and arts magazine heard by millions all over England. And be sure to tune in to Classical Minnesota Public Radio on Tuesday evening at 8pm for the special VocalEssence Inauguration Day concert from St. John's, Smith Square in London.