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January 15, 1969 - Image 2

Resource type:
Text
Publication:
The Michigan Daily, 1969-01-15

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Page Twa

THE Mi-HIGAN DAILY

Wednesday, January 15, 1969

music-
Gregg Smith Singers: Music as theatre

,,

By R. A. PERRY
The Living Theatre seeks to
break bonds between the passive
audience glued to their neat
rows of seats and performing
actors trapped behind the bars
of footlights. Well, it seems as
if the Gregg Smith Singers fash-
ion themselves as a Living
C h o r u s, and consequently,
though their aims be apolitical,
they eschew the cage of the.
stage and scurry a r o u n d
amongst the surprised and of-
ten delighted audience. Their
performance in Hill Aud. Sun-
day afternoon, as much a thea-
trical show as a musical concert,
was a mixed bag of effects.
Their ebullient conductor and
ring-master, Gregg Smith, talk-
ed a lot between numbers, in-
troducing, each piece with a
Mr. Wizard exegesis that ex-
plained the choreography of his
singers as much as the music-
ology of the pieces. Although
his enthusiasm was infectious
(if palling after two and a half
hours), certain of his preludes,
such as a very un-Dylan Tho-
mas-like reading of Vachel
Lindsay's "General Booth En-
ters Into Heaven," were regret-
table.
During one of these brief
speeches, Smith commented that
given the prevalence of record-
ings today, concerts cannot
avoid visual elements. To ithis
professed end, he dispersed his
21 singers all over the stage and
often into the audience. Smith's
reasoning was not merely thea-
trical, but also, presumably, to
fulf-1 Charles Ives' prophecy
that someday. music' woul~d
emerge from all directions. In
theory, Smith's plan 'would seemr
fresh and exciting, but in prac-
tice, problems. exist.
Take Mendelssohn's lovely
"Heilig," for Instance: when the
dispersed singers in the bal-
conies developed the opening
'chord one by one, the effect was
quite exhilirating, but when they
sang in unison, one's listening
experience was ironically depen-
dent upon that singer most
proximate, and thus unison ef-

fect was almostnentirely de-
stroyed. In all, one ended up
more concerned with guessing
what would happ'en next than
with the listening experience
itself.
Musically, the Gregg Smith
Singers car be commended.
Their vocal blend is pleasingly
integrated, mellifluent, a n d
pure; it shows no holes or im-
balance across the spectrum
from bass to soprano. Individ-
ually, the singers exhibited di-

More reviews
Page 9

verse talent as soloists, ar-
rangers, and instrumentalists.
Especially fine was Priscilla
Abraham, a native of the Phil-
lipines, who sang two folk songs
from her country that were ar-
ranged by another member of
the choir. In the first of these
songs, a near vocalise over
dirge-like chants from the
males, the impression of Miss
Abraham's warm and control-
led alto voice was certainly not
hindered by her good looks,.
In the "Gloria" from Monte-
verdi's gorgeous Vespers of 1610,
soloist William Lee sang his
filigreed aria with a most dis-
pleasing vibrato, while the sec-
ond tenor provided the echo ef-
fect from, apparently, the sec-
ond balcony's men's john. Cer-
tainly Monteverdi's m u s i c
speaks most evocatively on its
own and needssnot such ex-
aggerated stresses.
The concert opened, rather
perversely, with the "Carols of

Death" by William Schuman,
pieces that were studies in
subtle colorism and microtonal
harmonies. Two Ives works fol-
lowed, the razzmatazz jugger-
naut sound of "General Booth
Enters Into Heaven" and the
quieter, but no less an experi-
ment in chord changes, "Psalm
90." If somewhat loose, the per-
formances were controlled and
convincing.
Three contemporary works
were programmed. In one bit of
fun and games, entitled "Elec-
tion, 1968," the tri-part choir
took the roles of radical left,
conservative right, and platitu-
dinous center. The "left" had
the best lines, which included:
"All Yankees are pinks and
grow Grass in kitchen sinks,"
and the Final Warning, "All
bathtubs are unsafe." Like the
conventions they attempted to
satirize, the musical (?) expe-
rience balanced humor with
tedious cacaphony. These con-
temporary works were preluded
by Smith's misleading remark
that "Style dbesn't really exist
at all today."
Two bits of earlier Americana,
an anonymous round entitled
"Catch" and Billings' (he was
a contemporary of Washington)
"Consonance," were sung with
rhythmic - vigor. Three closing
folksongs in pretentious ar-
rangements ,including a "Cop-
las" that Theo Bikel does better
any day, did not reveal any
great precision on the choir's
part.
There are'too few small, ac-

complished choirs today - the
era of Sanford Cape's and Na-
dia Boulanger's ensembles is
gone-and the Gregg Smith
Singers have a secure role, es-
pecially in new music, which
they perform with commendable

enthusiasm and vocal control.
In concert, however, while expe-
rimentation can only be praised,
they should reconsider some of
the rigamarole that ultimately
detracts from -the music at
hand.

I

For those of you
UNION-LEAGUE who misse
MICH IGRAS
MASS
MEETING
You can still
sign up for committees
in the
MICHIGRAS Office
3rd floor League

_
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1 1

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COMMU N ICATE
WITH A CHILD
Learn from him and let him learn from you.
Seek him out by calling the U of M tutorial project 663-
8607 P.M.'s or 769-4758 late eves.
or by stopping in 2547 SAB 1-5

oool,

-068"Oftaft"

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UNIVERSITY

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MUSICAL

SOCIETY

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Program Information 2-6264 5th Big Week
Shows at :00-3:00-5:00-7:10& 9:15
ONE OF THE BEST MOVIES
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World Renowned Pianist
in recital

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COME TO
Student Book Service

The most complete
supply of .
NEW and USED TEXTS
and PAPERBACKS,
is at the
Student Book Service

-Saturday Review

and visit
RENEE
BARB
KUNDUS

bad cops
and there
are good
cops--and
then
thera's
Eulittt.

WED.', JAN. 22,8:30
in Hill Auditorium
PROGRAM
Two Impromptus, Op. 90 ..Schubert
"Appassionata" Sonata..........Beethoven
O Prole do Bebe (Bay-s Family). Villa-Lobos
Ballade in G Minor, Op. 23
Nocturne in F-sharp major, Op. 48 . Chopin
Scherzo in C-sharp minor, Op. 39
Tickets: $7.00-6.50-6.00-5.00-3.50-2.50
HAGUE PH*ILHARMONIC.*

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Mad Marvin Invites
You to Trip with him
and his friends
Sina colossal
laugh program
Thurs., Fri., Sat., Sun.-11 :00 P.M.
Vth Forum-separate admission

WILLEM VAN OTTERLOO
Conductor

I

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STEVII MCCLEEN
ASL" TIU EE
t_:su6EsTO FOR WOTRE iuoDIxESi TECHICOOPFROM WARNER BROS.-SEVEN ARTS (W q

FRI., JAN. 24, 8:30
PROGRAM
Symphonische Etude . . . ... .Andricsecn
Symphony in D-major ("Prague") "Mozart
Syphony No. 6 in A-major......Bruckner
Tickes: $6.00, 5.50, 4.00, 3.00, 2.00

fI

THE COMEDY GREATS-Program 1
W. C. FIELDS-"California Bound"
MARX BROS.-"Incredible Jewel Robbery"-pantorine
LAUREL AND HARDY,-"Big Business"-one of their really great ones with one
of the wildest comic destruction scenes ever filled. "It will drive you mad."
"THE GREAT CHASE"-Uproarious! 60 years of great movie chases. Featuring:
Douglas Fairbanks, William S. Hart, Perils of Pauline, 30 minutes of Buster
Keaton's greatest comedy epic THE GENERAL.
"HAPPY ANNIVERSARY"-Highly creative, experimental French comedy-Aca-
demy Award Oberhausen Film Festival, 1963.
PLUS-Continuing BUCK ROGERS space serial and BETTY BOOP cartoon.

GO
MAIZE

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rlh -
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Hours: 9:00 to 4:30, Mom

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UWhen in? Southern California visit Universal City Studios
An unsurpassed cast in one
of the great plays of the ages!

CHRISTOPHER PLUMMER

ORSON WELLES

- LILLI PALMER

and
RICHARD JOHNSON

F

in
OEDIPUS THZ KING

--+

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with
CYRIL CUSACK ; ROGER LIVESEY

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