Seattle's May third Sunday afternoon was the beneficiary of two luminous events: a summer day worthy of mid June and a performance of the Magnolia Chorale—an event well worth shunning the sunshine in order to savor the imaginative and delightful musicality of this regional choir.
Their Spring Concert took a leaf from Modest Mussorgsky's Pictures at an Exhibition. The Magnolia Chorale, under the direction of Jean-Marie Kent and assistant conductor Evan Norberg, selected an eclectic collection of choral pieces and invited Seattle artist Scott Ward to see if other local artists would join him in creating a piece of art to match one of the musical selections. The result was a concert entitled Songs at an Exhibition in which the audience wandered through a gallery both visual and auditory with the Quaker hymn How Can I Keep from Singing serving as the promenade whose variations married the various choral themes. The work of each individual visual artist was presented on a screen and then each piece was carried through the sanctuary by Ballard High School choir members in order to complete the comparison with Mussorgsky's piano tribute to Viktor Hartmann's art. A particularly hauntingly pleasant rendition of the promenade was rendered by Ballard High School student and Magnolia Chorale member Lili Stevens in a saxophone duet with pianist-accompanist Clint Gawthrop. Gawthrop accompanied the choristers with that deft touch of a gentle pianist whose task is to provide that underlying strength that leaves the audience barely conscious that the Chorale is not always singing a capella.
The artists whose works were featured included Ruth Beckett, Stephanie Bower (program cover), Karin Vance Chickadel, Patti Christie, Michele Harps, David Harrison, Charlette Haugen, Cecily Mitchell, Bob Scoverski, Tiffany Theile, Laura Van Horne and Scott Ward. And Chuck Eng deserves kudos for tickets one hated to surrender and a program brochure easy to read.
In addition to Alice Palmer's version of How Can I Keep from Singing, the Chorale sang Ian MacDonald's Tabula Rasa, Lydia Adams' Native American Honor Song, a local favorite evocative of Ivar Haglund, Acres of Clams, Stephen Chatman's Trees, Kousaku Dan's Umi Sono Ai, Maurice Durufle's Ubi Caritas, Jan Garrett’s I Dreamed of Rain, Coffee Break from “How to Succeed in Business without Really Trying,” to which Isaac Castillo on the bass and Heather Thomas on percussion joined Clint Gawthrop in a romp of James Taylor's Traffic Jam. The Chorale finished up with Louis Prima's Sing, Sing, Sing and the audience would have stayed the night if the Chorale had given encores.
It would be difficult to praise too highly either the artists for their ingenuity and talent or the musicians for their demonstrable breadth of musical ability. As entertaining an afternoon as one could
hope to have—anywhere. The ten-dollar ticket cost spread around the hundred plus attendees can do little to change the non-profit's dependency on support from patrons of the arts. But donors and ticket buyers alike got more than their money's worth from this concert—as they undoubtedly felt they have from previous concerts. If the past is prologue, future concerts deserve increased attendance. The Northwest is obviously home to an undervalued artistic alliance.
The Magnolia Chorale, founded in 1989, is comprised of a broad spectrum of talented non-professional singers drawn from the Puget Sound basin who present two public programs annually, the first in December and the second in May. Volunteers rehearse on Sunday evenings at the Magnolia Church of Christ but the Chorale's performances are usually held at the Magnolia Lutheran Church. The tickets for each performance are, unfortunately, collected. These, like the programs for each concert, are collectable pieces of art in and for themselves. It would behoove anyone who appreciates art and music to check in periodically at www.magnoliachorale.org or firstname.lastname@example.org for future concerts or to become one of the members of the choir.
If you were not there Sunday, don't make the same mistake next December!