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Yuletide Musicale Brings Moment of Solace

Chaparral Christian Church, Scottsdale
12/14/2012 -  & December 15, 16*, 17 (American Lutheran Church), 21 (Virginia G. Piper Performing Arts Center), 2012
It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year, a medley of the most popular Christmas carols
Kenneth Lorin Darby: ‘Twas the Night Before Christmas
Johann Sebastian Bach: Cantata “Lobe den Herren”, BWV 137
Joseph V. Eybler: Omnes de Saba venient
Johan Franz von Herbeck: Pueri concinite
Franz Xaver Gruber: Stille Nacht
George Frideric Handel: “Hallelujah” from Messiah, HWV 56

Cindy Baker, Roberta Chorlton (violin), Caroline Ruiz (viola), Debra Pearson, Matthew Smith (cello), Cindy Blandino (bass), Melanie Garcia, William Aikens (oboe), Bryan Ewing (trumpet, flugelhorn), Matt Watson (percussion), Kristin Holton Prouty (organ)
Gregory Amerind (tenor), Shawn Romo (soprano soloist)
The Phoenix Boys’ Choir, Georg Stangelberger (Artistic Director and Conductor)

PBC in St. Mark’s Basilica, Venice (Courtesy of PBC)

At a time when the country - and the world - ponder the unspeakable tragedy of Newtown, CT, the Phoenix Boys' Choir offered a moment of soothing solace. May their voices have reached the souls of those who fell under the fist of madness.

Founded in 1947 by A. L. Moore, the Phoenix Boys’ Choir (PBC) is currently under the guidance of Georg Stangelberger who joined in 1999 after a twenty-year tenure as deputy artistic director of the Vienna Boys’ Choir. Stangelberger and his predecessors (among whom Dr. Harvey K. Smith who served for forty years as artistic director and, sadly enough, passed away just three days before tonight’s concert) have brought PBC to a level of excellence that makes them one of the top boys’ choir in the country. Beginning at age 7 with the Training Choir, boys can progress to Cadet, Town, and Tour Chorus. By the time of graduation at 14, they have received extensive training in voice and musical theory. In 2007 they participated in the Summa cum laude International Youth Music Festival at the Musikverein in Vienna where they won the first place. Among other accolades, they received a Grammy Award in 2000 for Best Choral Performance for their recording of Penderecki’s Credo. In the past they have toured all major American, European, and Asian cities, performing in venues like Carnegie Hall, St. Mark’s Basilica in Venice, Notre-Dame de Paris, the Royal Albert Hall in London, St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome, to name just a few.

Each year PBC offers a full season of concert performances and regularly collaborates with Arizona Opera: Turandot in 2011, Tosca in 2013, and recently with the Phoenix Symphony in Orff’s Carmina burana.

(© Judi Adams)

The first part of last night’s concert offered a medley of the most popular Yuletide carols: PBC sang their hearts out, with great clarity, and the joy of singing was palpable. Adaptations included a little twist here and there: a jazzy “Angels We Have Heard on High,” “It’s the Most Wonderful Day of the Year” in waltz time, or a swingy “We Three Kings of Orient Are.” Just one thing, if this (French) writer may: it is not “Nowell.” It is “No-el.”

After intermission we were treated to more “serious” compositions. Again, PBC sang with gusto and precision. If their German calls for improvement, their Latin, conversely, is close to impeccable: consonants stand out clearly and the final is appropriately stressed. Even if the Lobe den Herren (Praise the Lord) by J.S. Bach written for chorus, bass, soprano, alto, and tenor voices stretches a bit the imagination when performed by voices that have not changed yet, the boys sang it with aplomb. In the Pueri Concinite, young soprano soloist Shawn Romo was right on: no affectation, just a wonderful, crystal-clear voice and great mastery of the vocal line. All PBC alumni present in the audience (some already seasoned) were invited to come on stage and join in to perform Silent Night. All delivered a final and well crafted “Hallelujah” from Handel’s Messiah.

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Christian Dalzon



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