Opera/Broadway Concert Better Than Ever From Three GCU Choirs

February 23, 2013 / by / 0 Comment

Review by Doug Carroll
Photos by Darryl Webb
GCU News Bureau

If a choral program can be judged by the company it keeps, then the one at Grand Canyon University is on its way to the top.

In a span of slightly more than 24 hours, renowned opera star Denyce Graves visited campus to conduct a master class; alumna Amber Wagner, an up-and-coming star in the same realm, returned to be inducted into the University’s Hall of Fame; and three GCU choirs sang some of the best music of 20th-century American composers, including Stephen Sondheim, Leonard Bernstein, Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein, and George and Ira Gershwin.

The Canyon Chorale, under the direction of Dr. Juan Hernandez, performed music from Rodgers and Hammerstein, George Gershwin and “Les Miserables” at Friday night’s Opera and Broadway Concert.

That’s an indication, at least, of where things stand in Year 3 of the resumption of the music program at GCU. Assistant Dean Juan Hernandez of the College of Fine Arts and Production heads a formidable team of instructors, and Friday night’s annual Opera and Broadway Concert at First Southern Baptist Church demonstrated the impressive results of their work with the University’s voice students. There’s no comparing where the program is now to where it was in the fall of 2010.

In a performance that lasted nearly two hours, the Canyon Singers (directed by Dr. Sheila Corley), New Life Singers (Gabe Salazar) and 60-voice Canyon Chorale (Hernandez) presented songs from Sondheim’s “Into the Woods” and “Company,” Bernstein’s “Candide,” Rodgers and Hammerstein’s “The Sound of Music” and George Gershwin’s “Porgy and Bess” in an engaging tour of the country’s musical heritage. A soaring medley from “Les Miserables” ended the program with solo turns by Ashley Hines, John Luke Osorio, Gavin Ely, Morgan Frazier and Laura McQuaig.

The concert was full of fine performances by sopranos, including McQuaig, Caroline Turnage (a playful “Glitter and Be Gay” from “Candide”), Chelsey Minkler (a dynamic selection from “Don Pasquale”), Natalie Shuler (“It Might as Well Be Spring” from “State Fair”) and Jocelyn Weddle (“The Witch’s Song” from “Hansel und Gretel”). The music program didn’t have this kind of depth two or three years ago.

A playful interpretation by soprano Caroline Turnage of a song from “Candide” provided some of the concert’s best vocal gymnastics.

A good word also should be said for the work Salazar has done with New Life, which expects to release a full-length album of worship music in May. The ensemble’s 16 singers showed that they are more versatile than ever, performing four numbers in the middle of the program that concluded with a smartly choreographed “Dancing Through Life” (from Stephen Schwartz‘s “Wicked”).

The Opera and Broadway Concert, always a favorite with audiences, has become a midyear staple for the choral program, which now dives into full-time preparations for Gabriel Faure‘s “Requiem.” 

Hernandez says the concert, scheduled for April 23, will be dedicated to the schoolchildren who were slain in Connecticut late last year.

Contact Doug Carroll at 639.8011 or [email protected]. 

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