It Takes Two to Tango
Laughing and flouncing their way onstage, the Sacramento Master Singers began their final program of the season with the playful "Vamos a Bailar" ("Let’s Dance"), complete with fingersnaps, claps and an energetic four-hands piano accompaniment by Heidi Van Regenmorter and Clifford Shockney.
Shifting moods completely, the next piece was a dramatically somber a capella madrigal with subtly sustained dissonance adding to the weight of grief, and ending with a whisper sounding like "loss."
Continuing softly, the next piece, "Come to Me, My Love," began with only the men’s muted voices, then added layers of sound like hope returning.
This was followed by "A Boy and a Girl" using poetry by Nobel Prize winner Octavio Paz and music by Eric Whitacre, who thought this was some of the truest music he’d ever written. This subtle, thoughtful a capella piece was sung perfectly by this choir, and it ended with the quiet power of several wordless musical phrases softly hummed. This piece was absolutely exquisite.
Other treats in the first half of the program included Piazzolla’s famous "Oblivion" tango, deliciously and authentically played on piano, violin and bandoneon by guest artist trio Cowtown Tango; and a rousing solo of Albert Fossen’s "Carousel," a very fast virtuoso piece for the accordion played by guest artist Nicolai Prisacar.
After the intermission, director Dr. Ralph Hughes treated the audience to the Spring and Summer portions of Piazzolla’s "Four Seasons of Buenos Aires."
The Cowtown Tango trio entertained with several more songs, including the beautiful "Mi Buenos Aires Querido" ("My Beloved Buenos Aires") and the hugely popular tango "El Choclo" with the lyrics to "Kiss of Fire."
The choir sang another moody song, "Se Equivoco’ La Paloma" ("The Dove Was Wrong"), which emphasized the rich tonalities this choir achieves.
Accordionist Prisacar played a final solo of an unusual medley of a Russian folksong and a Uruguayan tango that was all the rage in fin-de-siècle Paris.
The next offering was a reprise of Piazzolla’s "Oblivion," this time arranged for voice, and enhanced by a slow, nuanced tango dance by guest artists Alisa Shubb and Mike Bohan, who have been dancing together for 20 years, clearly evident in the lingering subtlety of their dance.
The choir’s program ended with "Youkali" or paradise, a joyful piece with a rich, fat sound that included flute, clarinet, piano, accordion and percussion.
All of the performers in Sacramento Master Singers are either professional musicians or highly trained musicians, yet they are humble enough to share the stage with several guests throughout the evening, thereby giving the audience a marvelously well-rounded program. To quote from the notes to "Youkali," which could equally refer to the whole evening, it was "a bit of musical nirvana."
If you didn’t get a chance to hear them this spring, don’t miss their holiday concert program, three weekends in December.
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