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CHORAL AND VOCAL REVIEW

Choral Singers

A CAPAPELLA FEVER AHH

by Terry McNeill
Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Choral singing, especially unaccompanied by piano or orchestra, seldom gets exposure at a summer music festival. So it was a surprise July 16 to find the Mendocino Music Festival featuring a full program of a capella singing in downtown Mendocino’s Preston Hall.

Perhaps due to the local performers comprising the four groups, the hall was standing room only and the audience wildly appreciative of the singers. Ft. Bragg’s “Sine Nomine” (no name) led off with six songs, the most novel being the “23rd Psalm” that substituted “she” for the universal “he.” The nine singers created humorous repeating rhythms in the rocking “Way Over in Buelah-lan” and ended with a unison falsetto in “The Lord Bless You and Keep You.”

The three-women River group sang seven works, mostly upbeat and the parts were clear and the diction crisp. In “May I suggest” the ending notes slid upward a perfect octave, and the final work (The Lord Bless You and Keep You) concluded with the word “peace” sung quietly in three separate harmonies. Lovely.

After a long intermission the five-men Acafellas produced the most boisterous program of the afternoon. The jazzy Johnny Otis standard “So Fine” (might they have added “Doin the Hand Jive”?) was followed by a captivating “I Can’t Sit Down,” the title followed by the words ”I just got to heaven and I want to walk around.” It received the loudest applause of a loud applause day.

The subtlest singing came with a fetching version of Ellington’s “Mood Indigo.” The group was less effective in a medley of Beatle’s songs and in “Love Potion No. 9.” The performance of the latter song lacked the unique vocal flavor of the Clover’s 1959 hit version.

In The Mix ended the program with six songs. The five-women group sang well, especially the non-programmed “Lay Me Down, I’ll Be Home Some Day,” but lacked variety of tonal color. This monochromatic palate was evident in much of the four groups singing, compromised mostly of all-male or all-female participation.

This changed sharply in an all-group encore ("Show Me The Way") that had warm voice differentiation. It was a formidable closure to a unique Festival event.