IN: Reviews

BCC Sings in Nine Languages


Anthony Trecek-King (file photo)

The Boston Children’s Chorus once again returned to the Gardner Museum, this time with Native North American and Bantu languages alternating with Slovenian and even English. The BCC defines its program title “CHOREGIE,” as “theater of voices or vocal theater multi-disciplinary art form.”

All in black attire, the youthful chorus ceremoniously walked two-by-two into Calderwood Hall then lay down on the floor on their sides and backs until the extended performance space was full of resting performers. Their vocalizing that began the show appeared to this listener as a nod to “nature concerts,” that is, the sounds of the natural world heard by human ears.

Perhaps this was yet another special feature of Saturday afternoon, where the chorus was intermixing a cappella sounds within the ten-song concert. The only explanatory note to appear on the three-page handout was this: “With fragments from Columba aspexit (Sequence for Saint Maximin) Hildegard von Bingen (1098-1179).”  Listed, though, were the names of the 60-some singers—all of them standouts!

The chorus’s logo on the vocalists’s shirts displayed “BC” in red and “C” in yellow. Also in formal black attire, president and artistic director Anthony Trecek-King garlanded his black shoes with red shoestrings.

Tsimshian Welcome Chant brought the choristers to their feet. A spoken introduction, barely intelligible for those of us sitting to the side of the chorus, referred to the sunlight as it went through the window. An arrangement of the welcome chant, “Traditional Canadian West Coast First Nations,” raised questions of authenticity. After unison chanting, then a drone, the setting turned increasingly to fundamental harmony and finally to all-out polyphony. BCC’s complete engagement with this hybrid could not be denied.

Russian composer Alexander Kashalsky (1856-1926) authored Miloserdija dveri. The full four-part BCC chorus harmonized beautifully, invoking the image of the song’s title, “Open Unto Us the Door.”

“Praise the Lord,” a traditional Cameroon melody, saw the young chorus swaying gently to the easy-going rhythm while adding their voices in infectious South African harmonies so well known to many of us.

For the Slovenian folk song, “Kresnice,” BCC’s Premier Choir formed small circles of five and on each refrain moved in clockwise and counterclockwise motion as they sang. During this song, the Young Men’s Ensemble stood with their backs to young women.

Assistant conductor Elena Efthimiou directed “Inuit Weather Chant,” Calderwood Hall, itself, seemed as if it too were singing, as BCC’s tribal vocalizations reverberated throughout the space in complete tonal synchronicity.  

For the closer of the 40-minute “CHOREGIE,” BCC sang the popular “Indodana” (The Son) in the Bantu language of the Xhosa of South Africa. This African gospel song surpassed fine tuning and exceptional discipline with these young Boston singers going deep with feeling.

The rather small turnout begged an encore. It came from Haiti with the discernable word, diplomasi, interspersed with sonorous oohing and energizing ostinatos.

“The Boston Children’s Chorus is a creative social integration organization that unites area children ages 7-18 across differences of race, religion, and socioeconomic status.” Assistant conductor Trey Pratt played an important role in leading the physical movements and formations. 

Readers may wonder why BCC dropped its originally publicized “Story of Her” Gardner concert, relating “history through a woman’s eyes,” but no explanation was given.

David Patterson, Professor of Music and former Chairman of the Performing Arts Department at UMass Boston, was recipient of a Fulbright Scholar Award and the Chancellor’s Distinction in Teaching Award. He studied with Nadia Boulanger and Olivier Messiaen in Paris and holds a PhD from Harvard University.  He is the author of 20 Little Piano Pieces from Around the World (G. Schirmer).

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