GEORGINA BENISON –
The Bosch Center for the Performing Arts at The American International School, Muscat, saw one of the year’s musical highlights on Saturday evening as young singers from 13 international schools, representing 27 countries, presented a stellar choral performance entitled, Shine.
The metaphor of space travel was taken for the journey of life and music-making from around the world. The concert was the culmination of an intensive weekend of workshops and rehearsals with students of American schools from Abu Dhabi, Vienna, Islamabad, Saudi Arabia, Dhahran, Kuwait, Doha, Abqaiq and of course, Muscat.
They were privileged to be coached by the eminent choral conductor, Dr. Jeffery Redding, Director of Choral Activities at West Orange High School, Winter Garden, Florida, whose resume of accolades and achievements are impressive.
The concert opened, not with the vast massed choirs on stage, but with three fine TAISM student instrumental solos by way of a chamber Prelude to the choral concert, and they proved to be an appropriate aperitif to the quite substantial haute cuisine of the programme.
Flautist Yujin Jin played the beautiful Siciliene by Faure, accompanied by pianist Kathy Heedles from AIS Vienna, the festival accompanist for 2017. This was followed by Razz Ma Tazz by Forrest Buchtel, played by trombonist Majd El Ashkar, accompanied by the young Emma Eliason on piano from Washington. Finally, Nathan Allison played his alto saxophone in John Edmondson’s Essay in Blue with Kathy Heedles on piano.
After a festival video presentation, a Journey in Space, we were finally treated to the sight of 142 students filing on stage and, with Dr. Jeffery on the podium, they launched into the opening song, Come travel With Me, Scott Farthing’s setting of Walt Whitman’s Song of the Open Road.
The second number was a lush arrangement of Harold Arlen’s chestnut, Somewhere Over the Rainbow, exquisitely sung in four-part harmony arranged by Mark Hayes. Then in sheer delight, the youngsters downed their scores and sang, Bonse Aba, a traditional Zambian song in an arrangement by Andrew Fischer in the original language of Bemba. It was accompanied by various festival staff members playing percussion – a fitting touch on such an occasion.
Accompanied by Emma and Kathy in a piano duet arrangement by Mark Wilberg, the choir sang the Scottish folksong, Oh Whistle and I’ll Come to Ye. A solo from one of the sopranos was so pure and clear that the audience was transported to the wind-swept hills of the Scottish Highlands.
Flight Song by Kim Andre Arnesen moved away from the theme of space travel and rather suggested the journey of a bird, fragile and wild, yet brimming with life. It was refreshing to see the enthusiasm and exuberance of these young people after an energising weekend of communion and sharing with new-found friends from the Gulf and Arabic countries.
The performance moved to a conclusion with an all singing and dancing acapella rendition of The Song of Solomon in Haitian Creole, Berusa Er (Drink Your Fill) set to music by Sten Kallman.
The Grand Finale of Stars by Kyle Pederson, reminded the listener that we are all just stardust, and the brightest stars are those who shine for the benefit of others. The ensemble was exquisite, excelling in its restraint of dynamics and poignancy of mood, remaining in the air long after the final bow.
This was a fine example of the ‘standard of excellence in choral music education’ which TAISM Festival of Choirs seeks to attain each year, and that it has surpassed its own ambitions is to the credit of the Artistic and Event Director and TAISM Choral Music Conductor, Ms Melanie Brink; Well done, everybody. You get better every year!