In Between: Sounds and Spaces
Merkin Concert Hall at Kaufman Music Center
May 15, 2018
Where Words Fail, Music Speaks
Said Hans Christian Anderson. Indeed, sixty women singers can make a lot of joyful noise. Among the many pleasures of listening to the SoHarmoniums is their eclectic repertoire which, on the night I heard them, ranged from classic American spirituals to a piece without lyrics to an international tango written by an Italian composer with words by an Uruguayan poet and a strong Spanish feel. Top it with the closing number, Hooked on Classics, that merged ten famous classical pieces (Gershwin’s Rhapsody in Blue, Beethoven’s Symphony No. 5, Rossini’s Carmen Prelude, the 1812 Overture, etc.) adding entertaining words and give this group and their leader additional points for showing their sense of fun.
The chorus, classic in dark blue velvet bodices over darker blue long skirts, showed off clear diction and lovely shading aided by the precise direction of Elizabeth Nunez who kept the group entirely on track minus any unnecessary flourishes. She’s crisp and precise and so are the singers.
Bring Me Little Water, Silvy, attributed to Huddie Ledbetter (Leadbelly), featured “body percussion,” i.e., rhythmic clapping using hands, shoulders and thighs before a segue into The Water is Wide in a contemporary arrangement with the melodies juxtaposed with soft echoes, later joined as partner songs. Liminality, a world premiere, written by Francisco Nunez, was performed with violin by Emma Hathaway under somber lighting. The somewhat repetitive melody was lifted by the swaying chorus giving the whole a hypnotic effect, appropriate for a piece that reflects on what may happen in a dreamlike trance state.
Once in a while there’s a shrill top note but generally the voices were balanced and clear with a few solos and a brief duet. The women sweep through their music with evident joy in presenting it.
The New York City not-for-profit choir of some sixty women, representing three generations, is bound together by the enduring magic of group singing. Founded by Deborah McManus in 2006 with Artistic Director Elizabeth Nunez, SoHarmoniums takes its name from its SoHo rehearsal space and began life with six singers, expanding until it now embraces roughly sixty performers.
The chorus was accompanied by Taisiya Pushcar, piano, and Colleen Clark, percussion. Ms. Pushcar has performed at Weill Recital Hall, Carnegie Hall and the Concertgebouw in Amsterdam and is on the faculty of the Ethical Culture Fieldston School, the Horace Mann School, and the Lucy Moses School. Ms. Clark is a respected jazz musician who has performed at Jazz at Lincoln Center and the Kennedy Center as well as conducting jazz master classes for children in the Bronx.
Elizabeth Nunez created and directs the Young Peoples’ Chorus of New York City, directing the Cantare Chorus; serves as vocal coach for YPC divisions and works with NYC public schools to bring a choral experience to almost 900 children annually.
SoHarmoniums’ mission deals with rejoicing through music. Their enjoyment—of one another, of their shared musical experience and of extending their spirit to the audience—is evident throughout.