Review by Wes Seneca
In 1609, English navigator Henry Hudson steered his ship up the flowing waters that now bear his name. After sailing as far as possible up the river, he noted the scarcity of male choruses in the region, and making use of Dutch sailors and a few willing native men, promptly founded the Mendelssohn Club of Albany. Or perhaps not… but the men of Mendelssohn proudly boast of being “the longest continually performing arts group in the Capital District.”
Now in their 104th concert season, last Friday’s concert at The Egg’s Hart Theatre proved that Albany’s Mendelssohn Club is still going strong. Under the direction of conductor Jeffrey Vredenburg, about 60 current Mendelssohn Club members presented a balanced program mixing the classical (Handl’s “O Magnum Mysterium”), the popular (Gillespie & Coots’ “Santa Claus Is Comin’ to Town”) and the oral traditions (“Rise Up, Shepherd and Follow”). Don’t let the tuxedos fool you, the Mendelssohns have never been stuffed shirts about their musical choices.
While it is standard fare for choruses to conclude holiday concerts with sing-along numbers, the Mendelssohns did not make the capacity crowd wait for their opportunity, inviting them to sing along on the show’s opening number, “Let It Snow, Let It Snow, Let It Snow.” With a brief and gentle dedication to “Heaven’s newest angels” (a reference to Friday’s school tragedy in CT), Vredenburg and the club then presented the lovely “May God Smile On You,” an English language setting of J.S. Bach’s “Der Herr segne Euch.”
Guest artists are always on the agenda at a Mendelssohn Club holiday concert, and on Friday night the Tamarac Elementary School Select Chorus and members of the Classical Guitar Society of Upstate New York proved to be winning choices. The kids from Tamarac (under the direction of Christopher Siegenthaler) actually presented the most “old school” set of the evening, performing “Da Pacem Domine,” “Noel Noel,” “The Wexford Carol” and “Carol of the Bells” accompanied at times by piano, harp or recorder.
In the second half of the program, classical guitarists Eugenio Reis, Harry George Pellegrin and Frederic Hellwitz each took a solo turn, then joined forces for the English jig “Keppel’s Delight.” Hellwitz drew a few laughs and smiles when he struck up the intro to “Stairway to Heaven” before launching into the trio number.
All three groups gathered on stage to conclude the evening with wonderful performances of “Silent Night” and “O Come, All Ye Faithful” (the latter, of course, a sing-along). Though the kids surely got home late, a good time was had by all.
105th season anyone?