Posts Tagged ‘Huston-Tillotson King-Seabrook Chapel’

Music transcendent

BAM festival 2008

BAM festival 2008

The program was varied, the singers and accompanist could do no wrong, the acoustics were perfect. I’m talking about the Viva la Diva! program of the BAM (Black Arts Movement) performing arts festival. Yesterday’s concert was the only event that I was able to attend in this festival of many venues, and I’m so glad that I was there.

This was an intimate and unmediated performance, with no artificial amplification and, because of the raked seating, no hindrances to seeing every nuance. With the exception of “‘Til There was You,” from The Music Man, the mesmerizing performance of Dalila’s famous song from Samson and Dalila, and the final and comic performance by all three singers together, the program was very dramatic in character, including traditional spirituals, as well as excerpts from musical comedy and from Ballo en Mascara, Carmen, Tannhauser, Street Scene, Turandot, Il Trovatore, Porgy and Bess, The Medium, and Tosca. The music was thrilling, and accessible even to the attendees who had never before heard a program like it

A very big thank-you is deserved by Pro Arts Collective, organizer of the BAM Festival, and, not least of all, to the stirring and inspiring people up on that stage: Othalie Graham, suprano; Lori Brown Mirabal, mezzo-soprano; Judith Skinner, contralto; and Austin’s own Elden Little, piano accompanist.

It’s surprising that the King-Seabrook Chapel at Huston-Tillotson is not used more often for such events. It was perfect. The hilltop campus offers an oustanding panoramic view of Austin. I was surprised to see all the way down to the big overpasses at Ben White, in addition to all the customary visual Austin landmarks in all directions.

Song recitals used to be quite frequent on the UT campus, and well publicized, with many student programs and also nationally known singers appearing in lieder programs. Yesterday’s ambitious program harkened back to those glory days and was excellent in every way, a true artistic success. I hope that this experiment is repeated by Pro Arts and the BAM festival next year and imitated by others before then. Those of us who heard it are fortunate indeed.

u p d a t e : The Austin 360 arm of the local daily has now posted a review. The author was less taken by the dramatic soprano, but this singer had a voice intended for the Wagner-Puccini repertory, made to penetrate, and be heard over, the forte playing of the large and brassy orchestra demanded by those operas. In addition, the reviewer does not mention “Mon coeur s’oevre a ta voix,” from Samson et Dalila. She does mention the expressive dramatic movements of Judith Skinner; she was wonderful, but so were the other two, in a more subtle style. I really do hope that the festival organizers are encouraged to include an event like this next year, perhaps even including the same roster of performers.

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