A couple of musings about vocal music for the start of the week.
1. A few days spent in Yosemite last week took me to the Bracebridge Dinner for the second time and, for the first time, to a concert of yuletide vocal music performed by the Andrea Fulton Chorale, the group that provides the entertainment at the Bracebridge Dinner. My impressions of the Dinner haven’t changed much since I wrote about it last year on this blog and a couple of months ago for American Theatre Magazine, so I won’t add anything new except to say that the production is virtually the same from year to year and the best way to have a different experience of it is to sit in a different part of the Ahwahnee Hotel’s grand dining hall. The view from by the aisle, which is where I sat this time around was much better than last year, where I was close to the stage, but to one side. Being in the middle this time felt more festive and intimate because I got a perfect view of the performers as they traipsed up and down the aisle. The free Pops concert, which the Bracebridge performers gave the night after I attended the Dinner, was great in a way because it demonstrated the considerable talent of the individual performers involved in the yuletide festivities at the Ahwahnee, something that the Dinner doesn’t really achieve except in the case of a few major performers. In fact, the solo and small group performances in the Pops concert were much stronger than the choral pieces because the singers that Andrea Fulton (who directs the Bracebridge Dinner and related events) picks seem to be more geared towards solo careers than happy singing as part of a large group. As a result, there were a lot of warbly, vibrato-heavy voices sticking out of the texture in many of the choral numbers on the program. I wonder whether Andrea Fulton would be better served by picking mostly choral singers for the Bracebridge Dinner with only one or two strong solo voices in the mix?
2. I finally got around to watching Never Stop Singing, a new documentary about the Minnesota choral singing scene, which the producer sent in the mail a while ago. If you sing in a chorus in Minnesota, you will no doubt find the documentary deeply fascinating. But unlike the choral music film Young @ Heart, which appeals to a broad audience because of its humorous and slightly detached / journalistic slant, Never Stop Singing couldn’t be more dull for anyone who isn’t part of the MN scene. The film devotes way too much time to talking about what makes MN such a happy place for choral singing and doesn’t make any attempt to engage with the subject in an analytical way. It’s largely a case of repetitive back-slapping and self-congratulation. Still, the documentary does provide a great overview of many of the different MN groups and composers as well as a potted history of the development of choral music in the area, which is mildly interesting for a vocal music wonk like myself. I’m going to give my copy to the San Francisco Public Library as I promised the producer. I wonder how many people here in the Bay Area will rent it?