Glad energy and a warm tone were the hallmarks of this weekend’s Saturday concert by the Northwest Repertory Singers. A celebration of the choir’s 10th anniversary, and repeated again tomorrow afternoon, the program highlighted the ensemble’s strengths – focus, warm singing and excellent programming – while only occasionally falling short of its usual high standard.
Much of the program was challenging singing. An opening of Samuel Barber’s three-poem “Reincarnations” brought out the always-excellent vocal balance, with nice bass support and good diction in the homage to “Mary Hynes.” The eerily chromatic descending canon of “Anthony O’Daly” had a fierce crescendo and moving dissonances; “The Coolin” a warm tone. When this choir sings love-songs, you truly believe them.
Two Bernstein songs had a full sound in the fortes but were rather timid in the softer sections, also true of the rhythmic declamation of Lukas Foss’ “Behold! I Build an House,” where accompanist Marjorie Skreen shone in the concerto-like piano flurries.
Also disappointing was John Corigliano’s “Fern Hill,” whose rolling neo-Romanticism perfectly suits the Dylan Thomas language but which sank somewhat into sameness, director Paul Schultz focusing on the beat rather than tonal variety.
Yet the direction and singing both were exemplary in “Invitation to Love,” a world premiere and choir commission from Schultz’ wife Donna Gartman Schultz. The pretty, feel-good harmonies weren’t breaking any musical boundaries but the melody was pleasantly singable, and the consonant tone-painting and Dunbar poetry brought out some very heartfelt singing.
After some spoken reflections on the NWRS by locals such as councilman Marty Campbell, Proctor business owner Sue Merrell and Tacoma Youth Chorus director Judy Herrington, the choir closed with two old favorites that epitomize both the group’s impressive singing and sheer joy: “Dirait-on,” that poignantly simple meditation by Morten Lauridsen, fell like hushed leaves on rippling water, and the wacky Swedish “Domaredansen” (despite intensely upright boogie-woogie from Skreen) showed a choir and director who just love to sing, and have fun doing it.
The Northwest Repertory Singers’ “10th anniversary celebration” is on at 3 p.m. June 5 at Mason United Methodist Church, 2710 N. Madison St., Tacoma. Get 20 per cent off your food bill at Proctor restaurants Pour at Four, The Old House Café, La Fondita and Knapp’s with presentation of ticket stub before or after the concerts. Tickets: $18/$15/free for under-12. 253-572-4831, www.nwrs.org