Supporting the Arts in Western Massachusetts and Beyond

March 15, 2016

South Hadley Chorale Concert

Abbey Memorial Chapel, Mount Holyoke College
March 13, 2016
by Michael J. Moran

Abbey Memorial Chapel
The South Hadley Chorale was founded in 1984 to perform Bach’s Mass in B Minor during the composer’s tricentennial year, 1985. Its Music Director for the past six years is Jonathan Harvey, who conducted three of the four works on the program. Its 70+ sopranos, altos, tenors, and basses are from South Hadley and 17 surrounding communities. The musicians begin rehearsing in October for an annual concert in March.

The concert opened with four brief selections sung by the South Hadley Children’s Chorus, founded by the Chorale in 2001 for children ages 7 -14. Their performances of Faure’s “Tantum Ergo” and “Pie Jesu” from his Requiem and Copland’s settings of “Simple Gifts” and “I Bought Me a Cat” were spirited and endearing, as conducted by their director H. David Pulliam and accompanied by pianist Michael Carney.

The Children’s Chorus then joined the Chorale in a radiant account of Faure’s lovely “Cantique de Jean Racine.” The Chorale here demonstrated the same careful intonation and clear enunciation that they maintained throughout the program. They were beautifully accompanied in all four pieces by a 14-member chamber orchestra of mostly string instruments. The acoustics of Mount Holyoke College’s Abbey Chapel added just enough resonant glow to the sound for voices and orchestra to be heard in balance with each other.

A vibrant rendition of Corigliano’s “Fern Hill” that featured the crystalline mezzo-soprano of Mary Brown Bonacci, conveyed all the youthful enthusiasm of the exuberant yet wistful text. A dignified account of the 18-year-old Schubert’s Mass in G Major, led by Carney, the Chorale’s Associate Conductor, showcased the supple voices of soloists soprano Mary Hubbell, tenor Spencer Hamlin, and baritone Ryan F. Burns.

A dramatic performance of Vaughan Williams’ cantata “In Windsor Forest,” based on Shakespeare’s “The Merry Wives of Windsor,” drew sharply characterized vocal acting from Hubbell and various sections of the Chorale in a drinking song, a fairy dance, and a wedding procession.

An impressively full house and a joyous post-concert reception highlighted the Chorale’s large following, which discerning lovers of choral music throughout the Valley would do well to join.