The parking lot at the Pine Island United Methodist Church was already full this afternoon when I arrived for the concert of the Fort Myers Symphonic Mastersingers. The chorus presented The Future of Music in the crowded sanctuary. As I squeezed into a pew, I felt a wave of nostalgia since I recognized so many of the singers from past musical collaborations in other choruses.
The program began and concluded with selections by the 70 or so singers. Sandwiched in between were pieces sung by the newly formed City of Palms Youth Choir.
Jeff Faux, the conductor of the adult chorus, told the audience they were about to hear the works the Mastersingers will perform this summer in Spain. The first was “O Quam Gloriosum” by Spanish composer Tomas Luis de Victoria. The second piece, “Holy Radiant Light” by Russian composer Alexandre Gretchaninoff, made good use of the strong bass section.
The mostly high school age youth chorus had excellent balance. I was particularly impressed with their final, non-sibilant “s” diction. To my ears, the music chosen by director Matt Koller leaned a bit too heavily toward the Eric Whitaker-esque. A South African mashup of “Siyahamba” and “Ipharadisi” was different and welcome. The syncopation was nicely done and the singers’ musicality was evident. A chorus of seven middle school girls had their own section. Their songs were unison, soprano sweetness. How I wish I’d had the opportunity to sing Britten at that age.
The Mastersingers also give several scholarships each year to provide private singing lessons to promising youngsters. One of the recipients, Makayla Davis, a high school junior, sang an aria from Don Giovanni looking every bit like a diva in the making. And I mean that in the nicest possible way.
The concluding numbers showed the power of such a large number of voices singing in eight parts. Faux proclaimed “The Conversion of Saul” by Z. Randall Stroope the strangest piece he has ever conducted. It is Stroope who is heading the Barcelona festival to which the chorus is heading. After an opening sounding a little like it could have come from the taverna of Carmina Burana, the music had its own conversion from raucous to uplifting.
I applaud the Mastersingers for its commitment to the youth choir. The future of music is in good hands.