The Sacramento Choral Calendar
River City Chorale
The 40th Anniversary Concert - May 5, 2017
by Sallee Kallenbach
Celebrating their fortieth anniversary, the talented and dedicated River City Chorale filled the First Baptist Church in Fair Oaks for a lovely evening of both religious and secular music. As I entered the church and sat down in one of the pews, I was delighted to see a good mixture of young, middle-aged and senior folks. Before long, the ladies and gentlemen of the Chorale walked onto the risers on the stage, choral books in hand. The pianist, Dean Mora entered, as did the conductor, Richard Morrissey, who gave a quick introduction.
When the conductor lifted his baton, the chorale immediately blended gracefully with the uplifting and stirring Rise and Shine, an old spiritual which is basically about getting up and going to work. The following piece, Gloria, which was arranged by Mark Hayes, united contemporary with traditional, with sweet melody lines and some very high notes confidently handled by the sopranos. I Lift Mine Eyes was very pastoral and soothing. I began to notice that many of the women were heroically singing tenor as the Chorale broke into The Best of the Beach Boys medley: “I Get Around,” “California Girls” and “In My Room.” It was quite a rousing change from the pious music that preceded it, and obviously great fun to perform — and to hear. Next came the Gershwins’ I Got Rhythm, with its contagiously toe-tapping, foot-stomping melody and lyrics. With superb and soulful expression, the Chorale had the audience clapping enthusiastically after each song.
At this point in the concert, conductor Morrissey welcomed the James Cowan Fundamental Elementary School Choir, who charmed not only their parents, but the whole audience. Many a hand was held high as the parents recorded their kids’ memorable choir concert on their cell phones. The audience applauded and laughed uproariously as the kids used body movements to illustrate almost every piece of music. I have to congratulate conductor George Dozet for incorporating all that physical activity to engage these highly energetic kids in choral music. The kids were clearly having fun and enjoying the experience. Their repertoire consisted of an Israeli Dance Song sung in Hebrew, a demonstration of vocal exercises incorporating hand, head and leg movements, and an optimistic hand-clapping arrangement of Give Us Hope by Jim Papoulis.
The Chorale then joined the elementary school choir on stage to sing This Shall Be for Music by Mark Patterson, who had adapted lyrics from Robert Louis Stevenson’s poem “Romance.” I couldn’t help noticing the crisp cut-offs and clear dynamics in this sweetly flowing piece.
After intermission, the sixteen or so members of the River City Chamber Choir came on stage to delight the audience with A Portrait of Cole Porter, which included “From This Moment On” and “Always True to You in My Fashion,” in which the ladies of the chorus surrounded and playfully teased the bemused but steady piano player. This was followed by the bucolic Three Folk Songs by Johannes Brahms, and a wonderful finger-snapping arrangement of Sunny Side of the Street.
The entire River City Chorale entered once again and floated through a splendidly haunting arrangement of Amazing Grace, a nostalgic medley of John Denver tunes entitled John Denver, A Legacy of Song, a winsome version of Let Us Break Bread Together and finally a piece called Swingin’ with the Saints, which had a variety of time signatures and tempos for a very jazzy arrangement of “When the Saints Go Marchin’ In.”
This Fortieth Anniversary Concert had many new songs, but was also full of nostalgia for both me and the rest of the audience. In fact, there were times when I just couldn’t help singing along and tapping my toes. The appeal of old standards and spirituals made for an inspiring evening of music — a fitting celebration of this important anniversary for one of Sacramento’s premier choral organizations.