Focus and Intensity
The raging ‘Dies Irae’ was particularly good, fired by Geary’s impassioned direction. Geary conjured the Romantic side of the work, rather than its Classical roots.
—SAN FRANCISCO CLASSICAL VOICE, August, 2015
I use amateurs in its original sense: lovers, in this case lovers of music. These everyday San Franciscans, musical moonlighters, came together and, through their passion (and careful preparation) produced something extraordinary.
Authentic and Expressive
…high moments included Brancoveanu’s frolic and greeting to the sun, and his triumphant cadenza on “entgegen hartt.” Dronker’s summer aria, of heat “refreshing to the senses,” was a languid conquest, alternating bright and simmered vowels like the dappling of sunlight on a forest floor, and her phrases played tag with a lovely oboe melody performed by Robin May. And in “In banger Ahnung” (In fearful apprehension life stands still) her soft keening magnificently conveyed the dread of the approaching storm.
Intoxicating and Powerful
In the big opening movement, Lang [produces] a sort of free-floating evocation of the fog of war. The music, beautifully sung by the chorus, treads a similar line between specificity and vagueness….”Battle Hymns” concludes on a transcendent note, with a surrealist and practically wordless setting based on Foster’s “Beautiful Dreamer.” Suddenly, all the regimentation of the staging is jettisoned, as the performers mill about the space singing suspended harmonies at the edge of audibility. The effect is intoxicating and powerful.
Roots and Warmth
It is always quite wonderful to attend performances of an ensemble with such deep roots in the Bay Area community as the San Francisco Choral Society. The energy around its concerts reflects that; there is always an appreciative atmosphere of eager anticipation in the auditorium, and applause almost never sounds as warm and well-deserved as when originating from family, friends, and longtime fans. And there is, of course, the fact that you can count on hearing some high-quality choral music, as Artistic Director Robert Geary and his Society have certainly proven over the years.
Assurance and Passion
Under the direction of Robert Geary , the Choral Society was joined [in singing the Kortekangas] by the Piedmont East Bay Children’s Choir and soloists Shauna Fallihee, soprano, and Nikolas Nackley, baritone, as well as by the California Chamber Symphony. Geary’s direction throughout the work was assured, clear, and passionate — no surprise, given his reputation and acclaim for championing newly written music.
Earthiness and Refinement
But to see the San Francisco Choral Society, more than 200 singers supported by friends and well-wishers, troop onto the Davies Symphony Hall stage and hear them sing the Verdi Requiem Mass was to understand that great art can be made by ordinary humans….By turns earthy and refined, they embodied Verdi’s conception of a worldly community hymning the spiritual and universal.
A Vital Niche
The Choral Society, some 180 strong, is one of those music groups that fills a vital niche in the Bay Area’s musical community by keeping the art of amateur choral singing alive, with a roster of volunteer singers running the gamut from finely-trained voices to lesser-skilled and even novice vocalists, all earnest in their desire to participate in music-making rather than be mere spectators.
When [Britten’s War Requiem] is performed well, the great work is capable of cutting to the very heart and soul of humanity. It was indeed well done, and it clearly pierced the sensibilities of its audience during its performance Saturday night by the San Francisco Choral Society…Eyes reddened with tears and handkerchiefs came out by the scores at the end of the performance…audience emotions poured out into an intense standing ovation.