MUSIC REVIEW: ‘CHIMES OF CHRISTMAS’

Hundreds of performers put on quite a show, with Zegree’s spark and spirit

By Peter Jacobi

 

To say that the weekend’s “Chimes of Christmas” presentations in the Indiana University Auditorium were the work of hundreds is no exaggeration.

The Saturday matinee employed more than 80 Singing Hoosiers, the four-member Singing Hoosiers Band, a quartet of Singing Hoosiers Horns, the Vocal Jazz Ensemble of eight, an IUnison group of 12, another 45 performers tied to Syncopation, the 34-singer African American Choral Ensemble, the visiting 35 youngsters from Columbus North High School’s Concert Choir, 13 IU Horns, 11 who constitute the IU Trombone Choir, and 16 Harvey Phillips Tuba Santas.

Add soprano Sylvia McNair and directors for each of the above musical units. Add the master of the whole affair, Steve Zegree, and who knows how many contributors behind the scene, and you get the idea. It takes a village to produce “Chimes of Christmas.”

The result was quite a show and, from what the applause and cheering would suggest, a definite crowd pleaser. There’s no doubt that the musical emphasis of the program has changed since previous Singing Hoosiers director Michael Schwartzkopf retired a few years back and Steve Zegree took over.

The content holds less traditional holiday fare: carols and historic chestnuts. These have given way to new songs and, more than that, to new arrangements, jazzier arrangements that appear to please enough folks for a show decades in the making to have — for the first time — a matinee performance, meaning two instead ofone.

For this viewer, to hear Sylvia McNair and the Singing Hoosiers join in a poignant “Silent Night” will probably be a best-appreciated and best-remembered moment, much more so than the program’s “Grand Finale,” an arrangement of Beethoven’s Hymn of Joy from the Symphony Number 9. This “Joyful, Joyful, We Adore Thee” was done up so the well-loved tune could barely be discerned, given the rhythmic twists and melodic turns.

I can understand the enthusiastic reaction. With virtually all the above listed musicians contributing to the musical might emanating from the Auditorium stage, it became hard for an audience to resist a “wow” response. The result did have impact.

As usual, “Chimes” held multiple items, 21 to be precise. So, there was something for everyone in the mix. Six Christmas-themed numbers for the Singing Hoosiers rightfully opened the program, most of them led, and led with persuasive purpose, by Duane Shields Davis, a newly acquired adjunct professor in the Jacobs School. Maestro Davis should be held on to; he’s very, very good. Doubling as singer on Saturday, he partnered Sylvia McNair in the charming Frank Loesser duet, “Baby, It’s Cold Outside”; they sang it charmingly.

Ly Wilder brought her now-expected verve and jazz savvy to her own upbeat arrangement of “Santa (Bang Bang)” and a “Santa’s on His Way” medley. Raymond Wise, director of the African American Choral Ensemble, contributed his well-trained choir and an ebullient presentation of “He Brought Joy.” Jeff Nelsen and his IU Horns stressed tradition in their performance of the lovely “Carol of the Bells.” Daniel Perantoni led the Tuba Santas in a TubaSanta Suite. The Singing Hoosiers A Cappella remembered Hanukkah with an ebullient interpretation of Mike Boxer’s “Al Hanissim.”

Another highlight for this listener came when doctoral candidate Caleb Lewis stepped forward to lead the Singing Hoosiers in a beautiful Darmon Meader arrangement of “O Come, O Come Emmanuel.” The show did not lack variety.

Steve Zegree served as master of ceremonies, leaving the task of conducting mostly to others.

But, of course, he was the spark and spirit behind the whole of “Chimes.” Spark and spirit the show certainly had, in plentitude.

 

© Herald Times 2014

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