On Saturday, March 11, a professional choir from Independence, Missouri came to grace our wonderful recital hall here at Graceland. The Ancora Chorale is an ensemble that educates, inspires, and raises cultural awareness through consistently emotive and professional level performance. I was told by many of the music faculty to have high expectations of this group, and was not disappointed.
The choir instigated their performance with a slow, smooth piece as they walked out onto the floor of Carol Hall. The piece was very theatrical in its choreography, and even incorporated wind chimes for an added dramatic effect. The singers could be instantly recognized as professionals, and the transitions between the voices were smooth and pristine. This was a great way to set the mood for an exciting concert.
The next piece was a choral arrangement for “Pure Imagination” that was fun as well as impressive. The counterpoint between the voices flowed effortlessly, and the piece put me into a trance as I enjoyed its friendly dissonance. The choir had an excellent balance between its male and female singers; not one voice was left behind, but they somehow all sounded like a single entity.
“When I Fall in Love” came next, and exhibited the chorale’s expert technique. The sound coming from their collective voices created a feeling of rushing back and forth like a gentle wind. They incorporated a great use of negative space in their sound with how they handled common rests.
After that came a piece with a slightly less serious tone. “It Might as Well be Spring” had some especially humorous lyrics that got several chuckles out of the packed audience. I witnessed Carol Hall fill with the sound of their voices, as I so often do in that wonderful room. The piece was powerful and silly all at once, putting me in a positive mood.
The next piece was an arrangement of a popular Gershwin piece called “Love is Here to Stay.” The piece was simple and pretty, incorporating a lovely jazz melody combined with the spotless harmonization of the choir. Towards the end of the piece, it took on a more upbeat character and turned into a nice swing. This created a more joyful ending for what started as a slower ballad.
Next on their agenda was “There is more Love Somewhere.” This piece started in a hauntingly lonely way, slowly adding voices to the melody. The piece grows in power and intensity, and by the end the piece has a much more uplifting tone. When the whole choir became involved, it created a securing and loving environment in the hall.
After that, the concert took a much more sacred tone. They started this by performing “We Shall Walk Through the Valley,” which started with only a few voices singing. Gradually, the rest of the choir adds their voices through all the verses until, at one point, the room is filled with hums and oohs.
Next was “More Holiness Give Me,” which incorporated Jack Ergo on the piano. The conductor, Kristopher Taylor, spoke about the interesting rhythmic pattern in the piece and explained what it meant to him in a spiritual sense. This piece was a great example of how form follows content. The piece had the choir singing in 3/4 time with Jack playing in 4/4. This was meant to represent how the dissonance that often happens in life can still be beautiful when it aligns and works together.
The next piece was “Behold the Wounds in Jesus’ Hands.” This piece exhibited a classically sacred setting and felt like a hymn people sing in church. The choir was very excellent in its cohesiveness.
“When I Survey the Wondrous Cross” is a very popular choral piece that started very peacefully in the low voices. The choir did an excellent job being careful with the beautiful counterpoint that this piece is so well known for. They used a commanding vigor to bring the piece to an end with Jack on piano.
The final piece was “Children of the Heavenly Father.” This piece started in the upper voices on oohs as accompaniment to the soloist who started the melody. Dissonant chords created tension throughout the piece and constantly begged to be released. The bass voices exhibited extreme skill in being able to hit such low tones and the whole piece ended like the final chord of an organ.
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