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February 01, 1994 - Image 5

Resource type:
The Michigan Daily, 1994-02-01

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Concubines drink and

kingdoms fall
"There's going to be a lot of noise up there," said Leslie
Guinn, Director of the Division of Vocal Arts at the
University School of Music and Baritone soloist in tonight's
performance of William Walton's Oratorio "Belshazzar's
Feast" to be given by the combined forces of the Univer-
sity Choir, the University Chamber Choir, the University
Symphony Orchestra and the University Philharmonia
Those who see concerts as opportunities for a pleasant
nap in high-toned surroundings would do well to miss this
one; while a choral setting of scripture by an English
composer may sound like a recipe for virtuous boredom,
"Belshazzar's Feast" will quickly shatter any such pre-
"Dramatic" and "theatrical" are the words most used to
describe the piece by Guinn and by Jerry Blackstone,
director of the University Choir and the University of
Many students may not realize that
the School of Music faculty harbors
much world class vocal talent,
Guinn being a prominent case In
Michigan Men's Glee Club, who conducts.
The work captures "all the drama of the text," accord-
ing to Guinn. Indeed, "Belshazzar's Feast" recounts one
of the most famous episodes in the Old Testament. After
a moving account of the plight of the children of Israel
taken captive in Babylon, Walton pulls out all the stops for
a brilliant depiction of what Blackstone called "the big
party" thrown by King Belshazzar. "The heathens get a lot
of good tunes," added Blackstone: these Babylonians
know how to celebrate in style.
At the height of the festivities, King Belshazzar breaks
out the sacred vessels plundered from his captives "that
the King, his Princes, his wives, and his concubines might
drink therein." Suddenly there come forth "fingers of a
man's hand," and the dumbstruck Babylonians witness
the handwriting on the wall: "Mene, mene, tekel upharsin
- thou art weighed in the balance and found wanting."


at 'Feast'
The remainder of the score makes short work of
Belshazzar and his kingdom; his slaying is the occasion
for a lusty shout from the chorus. Lest anyone think the
bad-guys have all the fun, the work concludes with a
joyous chorus of the liberated Hebrews. This is
Blackstone's favorite part, "the alleluias when Babylon
has fallen are fabulous, and it builds to this monster climax
at the very end ..."
The first performance of the work 60 years ago set the
English musical world on its collective ear, in more than
just musical terms. Blackstone observes that it was also
"controversial in terms of the text-- at first women in the
chorus refused to sing it because it had the word 'concu-
bines' in it. It was banned in churches for awhile because
of that word. And Walton tends to relish those phrases, too
- the parts about concubines are very gorgeous, very
Many students may not realize that the School of
Music faculty harbors much world class vocal talent,
Guinn being a prominent case in point. Fresh from a stay
in Germany that saw his first performances as Wotan in
Wagner's "Ring" cycle, certainly the longest and argu-
ably the most difficult role in the bass-baritone repertoire,
Guinn looks forward to working with student forces in a
relatively modest part he has performed for years. "The
baritone part is not very big," he said, "but it's extremely
dramatic. When the baritone comes in, Walton just hands
you the stage on a silver platter."
Guinn singled out the invocation to the Babylonian.
God of Gold: "Vocally, just in terms of blowing the soot
out, that little five-bar section is just a pedal-to-the-metal
moment. I hold that last note till the chorus blows me off
the stage with their entrance."
Guinn readily admits that the real starof the show is the
chorus, which Walton puts through its paces in no uncer-
tain terms. Indeed, Blackstone declared "Belshazzar's
Feast" the "most challenging piece I've ever done. The
choral writing is as hard or harder note-wise and
rhythmwise as anything." He concluded that "the possi-
bilities for disaster in this performance are huge. It's just
on the edge."
BELSU AZZ AR'S FEAST will be performed in Hill
Auditorium at 8p.m. tonight. The program will begin
with overtures by Berlioz, Verdi, and Wagner
conducted by Gustav Meier. Admission is free.

School of Music Director of Vocal Arts Leslie Guinn leads the way in the performance of "Belshazzar's Feast."
IH"fl'AT Apted makes 'Blink'
WHE RE WHEN m aybe worth a look


Executive Positions Available

What makes a good director? Is it
strength? Is it vision? Is it pure skill?
Or is it just consistency? The ability
to wade through psycho-thrillers like
Directed by Michael Apted; written
by Dana Stevens; with Madeleine
Stowe and Aidan Quinn.
"First Born," wrenching bio-pics like
"Coal Miner's Daughter" and "Goril-
las in the Mist," tales of personal
struggle like "Thunderheart," and
even startling documentaries like "In-
cident at Oglala" or the noted "7 up"
series, all without missing a beat?
Whatever "it" is, it would seem that

one unquestionable benefit of being a
Good Director is the ability to create
strong, harrowing films imbued with
equally strong characters, regardless
of the genre, or perhaps in spite of it.
This is the case with Michael Apted.
Lucky for the producers of "Blink,"
too, 'cause without him, they'd be
little more than weary players in an
endless game of Blind Man's Bluff.
This is not to say that the script is
without redemption. It takes a con-
ventional idea - a woman sees the
face of a killer, fears for her own
safety, and falls in love with the hand-
some cop who's been assigned the
case - and adds a bit of a twist to it.
The quirk is that Emma Brody is
blind, or was until just days before the
See BLINK, Page 8

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