By Yasmeen Salama / Inscape Editor
By Yasmeen Salama / Inscape Editor
Picture a church, with high vaulted ceilings, nothing on the white-washed walls, a stage at the front of two rows of pews, and a long aisle leading up to the stage.
The final picture looks, well, like any other church really.
Perhaps a church building is nothing particularly special to look at but when it comes to capturing sound, there is no better place to perform choir music than at a church.
Riverside City College’s Chamber Singers and Concert Choir, joined by Cal Baptist University’s Women’s Choir, proved this at their fall season concert opener on Oct. 26.
Hosted by First Congregational Church by the Mission Inn, the two schools demonstrated their harmonizing, rhythm, and vocal prowess, each individual choir earning their own standing ovation.
California Baptist’s Women’s Choir opened the evening with a few spiritual songs and dazzled the audience in elegant blue gowns.
They had a large number of singers by choir standards and some of the women did not all fit on the stage.
They spread out to stand off to the sides of the pews in addition to filling the stage to capacity with five rows of singers.
Conducted by Dr. Philip Miller, the women gave a practically flawless performance, accompanied by base, piano, and drums for a few of the pieces, though a couple were sung completely a capella.
The sound that all those soprano and alto voices produced resounded off the walls of the church to give a sort of surround sound effect.
No microphones, no synthesizers, no technology at all, just the natural acoustics of the chamber.
It was nice not to have to “experience technical difficulties” or hear the screeching of a microphone turned up too loud for the amp.
The result was just the pure sound of human voices, unfiltered, and unaltered, filling the chamber.
RCC’s Concert Choir continued where the California Baptist’s Women’s Choir left off, under conductor Rebecca Tomlinson’s careful direction.
As angelic as an all women’s choir can sound, it was nice to hear the addition of the deeper male voices.
Though the RCC choir was smaller, their sound was no less wholesome and no less engaging for the audience.
The selection of songs they sang were all in Latin, including an arrangement of the famous composer Antonin Dvorak’s “Gloria from Mass in D.”
And there does just seem to be something about Latin that lends itself well to the vocalizations of choirs, especially for the slower melodies.
The choirs’ pronunciation of English lyrics often sounded harsh, especially when compared to the fluidity of the Latin songs’ lyrics.
Both RCC choirs sang almost exclusively in Latin.
But RCC’s Chamber Singers showed that German can be equally as mesmerizing.
Conductor John Byun, who has conducted choirs at RCC for the last seven years and counting, set the audience up with a rather depressing story of a city going up in flames and destruction surrounding a particular character before his chamber singers began.
The German ballad “Der Feuerreiter” by Hugo Wolf, had a dark and depression melody.
The chamber singers, feeling the emotion of the piece, sang so intensely that even though most of the audience likely didn’t speak German, the general feel of the song spoke of violence and destruction and eventually sweet death.
It turns out that that’s precisely what happened by the end of the song.
The next song they sang was one of the most beautiful melodies of the evening, “O Vos Omnes” written by Richard Burchard.
Burchard wrote a piece for RCC’s Chamber Singers last year entitled “Ecce” that went over so well that Byun asked him to write another for this season.
After only about seven weeks of practice, they pulled off a classy, professional sound, right up to the last number, a unique arrangement of “Alleluia.” The final number featured Anthony Hamilton singing solo.
RCC’s Chamber Singers were preparing for a fall conference held in Colorado, which Byun said made RCC the first junior college to be accepted.
RCC’s choirs opened the fall concert season with a beautiful performance that will continue into the winter season.
Check rccchoir.com for further performance dates.