December 15, 2010 (Jim Ruggirello, Long Beach Gazette)
Chorale's Holiday Show Seasonal, Not Hackneyed
Long Beach Chorale does things differently.
Under the guidance of the dynamic Eliza Rubenstein, the ensemble, which presented its season-opening holiday show the other day at Grace First Presbyterian, managed to put together a program that, while perfectly appropriate to the season, completely avoided the traditional, the hackneyed and the familiar.
The concert was entitled "American Epiphanies," and focused on the three kings, the star of Bethlehem, and all that, while featuring the works of American composers, some of them pretty darn obscure. Guest soloist Marlissa Hudson and the Chorale opened with a piece by one William Walker from the early 19th Century, "Hail the Blest Morn," and immediately two things became apparent: Hudson has a beautiful, warm coloratura, which she uses with great expressiveness and musicality, and the Chorale sounds great.
After that, Rubenstein walked us through some really stimulating repertoire, aided by her engaging and informative remarks about each piece and sabotaged at times by a recalcitrant microphone. Kirke Mechem's musically and poetically interesting "Two Christmas Ballads" were followed by a real rarity, Margaret Bonds's cantata "The Ballad of the Brown King," with a text by Langston Hughes. Bonds, a Chicago-based composer who died in 1972, wrote a great work, one that at times shows the influence of African-American spirituals, at times moves in a melodic, attractive, more popular vein, and in at least one number is distinctly jazz-inflected. The piece displayed the Chorale and soprano Hudson in all their robust glory, supported by Bob Gunn's distinguished work at the piano.
Charles Ives's uncharacteristically very pretty "A Christmas Carol" was followed by an edgy and dissonant arrangement of "We Three Kings" by Dave Brubeck, who astonishingly turned 90 this year. As Rubenstein perceptively pointed out, Brubeck learned a thing or two from Ives.
Three spirituals completed the program. Hudson succeeded in almost making me like "Sweet Little Jesus Boy," a sappy number redeemed by her fervent performance and Gunn's exquisitely tasteful accompaniment. By the way, the term "collaborative pianist" is replacing the somewhat pejorative "accompanist" these days. Gunn is a first-rate musician, and his work enhances every Chorale performance. An infectiously bouncy and very tricky "Go Where I Send Thee" was succeeded by Hudson and the Chorale's joyous "Go Tell It on the Mountain."
...Long Beach music lovers should be packing the house for the Long Beach Chorale, whose innovative programming, musical excellence and gorgeous sound continue to enchant their devoted followers. Yes, Long Beach Chorale does things differently. And they do it very well.
June 30, 2010 (Jim Ruggirello, Long Beach Gazette)
Everybody Wins with Good Music
...How odious, and how fun, to pick the single best concert of the past year. It's easy, actually. Long Beach Chorale's Brahms Requiem was sheer perfection, a completely satisfying musical experience that simply had nothing wrong with it, and a great deal right. Eliza Rubenstein guided a dramatically compelling, lyrically sensitive performance that could have been a stretch for her singers, but one that they and a fine pick-up orchestra turned into a triumph.
March 24, 2010 (Jim Ruggirello, Long Beach Gazette)
Three Musical Performances Leave Little To Criticize
...I've saved the best for last. The Long Beach Chorale's Brahms Requiem was an amazing achievement, not just because the group managed to pull it off, but because they did it with such distinction.
This was as satisfying a performance of anything that I can recall, and Eliza Rubenstein is to be congratulated for preparing and shaping a lovely, vibrant and truly excellent performance of a major work.
The expanded chorus (close to 70) and full orchestra produced a wonderful sound, and movingly intoned the meditative passages while producing plenty of power for the more dramatic moments. Soloists David Stoneman and Jenny Spence were first-rate. Rubenstein set an ideal tempo for each movement, and conducted with her customary consummate musicality. The requiem, full of comfort and consolation, unfolded with beautiful naturalness.
Grace Presbyterian Church was packed with an audience that enthusiastically responded to the Chorale's really exquisite blend and seemingly flawless execution. There are no perfect performances, but this one was astonishingly close.
There was nothing wrong with this concert, leaving a hapless critic nothing to criticize.
I hate it when that happens.Older Articles