Friday, December 26, 2008

Vox Vocal Ensemble at the Guggenheim

I didn't actually attend this years Christmas concert at the Guggenheim that my former radio partner George Steel was back in town to conduct, but Allan Kozinn's review in the New York Times brought back a few memories from years past.

The photo above gives an excellent sense of how much fun the concert can be, as the audience chooses between sitting or standing on the floor of the rotunda or lining the Guggenheim ramp. I've enjoyed the concert from multiple positions over the years, although I would have to recommend being a level or two up on the ramp and getting to hear the resonant voices of the chorus rise up to you.

In the review, Kozinn describes

one pop number, performed by only the men in the choir, Mel Tormé’s “Christmas Song.”

I often have cited the first year ever that this happened as my favorite ever holiday music memory. It was December 2003, and bass Joe Chappel stepped forward and busted into "Chestnuts roasting on the open fire..." And my heart melted in yuletide glee. (Sadly, the performance the following year featured a less swinging bass, and the magic was not repeated.)

Kozinn also notes,

The program also included several carols in which the audience was expected to sing along. Mostly the audience saw the wisdom in demurring: far better to hear this choir do the singing than to inflict your questionable intonation on your neighbor.

In December 2006, I was standing on the ramp next to bass singers Steven Hrycelak and Richard Lippold, who did not demur and instead gave me an additional surround sound experience as part of the performance.

Ultimately, I'm glad that Kozinn got a George Steel fix, after concluding a recent article on new music in New York in the following fashion:

A performance of Xenakis’s non-pop-influenced “Oresteia” at the Miller Theater in September drew a similar response. But that proved a bittersweet season opener: Miller’s visionary director, George Steel, had just announced his decision to become general manager of the Dallas Opera. His successor has yet to be named, and finding someone with his originality, curiosity and daring is bound to be tough.
I'll have to confess to a slight groan at all of that effusion.

Steel returns to New York on Valentine's Day to conduct the Vox Vocal Ensemble in a program of old music -- early music, as they say -- entitled "Songs of Love, Lust and Lamentation."

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