GCU Choirs Off to Strong Start in New Year
By Doug Carroll
Photos by Ruth Nsubuga
It’s amazing that First Southern Baptist Church is still standing after GCU’s three choirs raised the roof on the place Friday night.
The first choral concert of the fall semester found the Canyon Chorale, the Canyon Singers and the New Life Singers on top of their game — and provided a clear indication of just how far the Music Department has come in a year under the direction of Assistant Dean Juan Hernandez and vocal coach Sheila Corley.
From the first notes of John Ness Beck’s “Song of Exultation” to a closing set of four spirituals, the polished, 80-member Chorale kept a packed house in its thrall and richly deserved the standing ovation with which it was rewarded at the end.
Male voices are noticeably stronger this year, and the richer blend was evident also in the 25-member Canyon Singers’ five-song portion of the program. The Moses Hogan spiritual “I’m Gonna Sing ’til the Spirit Moves in My Heart” brought talented tenors Jonathan Gott, Miguel Carlos-Romero, Taylor Anderson and William Endsley out front, and Gott’s expressive solo work with the Chorale on Hall Johnson’s “Ain’t Got Time to Die” was another of the evening’s highlights.
Fans of the American spiritual canon had much to enjoy. A total of seven such numbers were performed by the three choirs during the 75-minute concert. The moving conclusion included William L. Dawson’s arrangement of “Ev’ry Time I Feel the Spirit,” “Ain’t Got Time to Die,” Norman Luboff’s arrangement of “Deep River” and Hogan’s “Didn’t My Lord Deliver Daniel?”
“This is music that tries to look back into a rich tradition,” Hernandez, who conducted the Chorale, said to the audience early on.
Corley conducted the Canyon Singers, Gabe Salazar the New Life Singers. The latter group of 16, known for its repertory of contemporary praise songs, is adding more traditional music this year, and the candlelit “Sleep” by Eric Whitacre provided an example of how Salazar has been challenging them.
The turnout for the concert came as a pleasant surprise to Hernandez, who already is considering two performances of the annual Christmas concert (scheduled for Dec. 4 at the church) to accommodate the anticipated larger numbers.
The program’s only misstep was its printed program, which noted a “Masterwoks” concert (it should have read “Masterworks”). That said, fans of choral music should indeed enjoy what the Music Department has been cooking up for 2011-12.
Reach Doug Carroll at 639.8011 or firstname.lastname@example.org.