Concert delights with music, singing, dancing

By Timothy Gaylard, Special to The Roanoke Times

A large array of musicians, including the Roanoke Symphony Orchestra, presented an interesting program on Sunday afternoon for an audience of about 1,700 at the Berglund Performing Arts Theatre.

The concert of only two works, one relatively short and the other quite long, provided a marked contrast of timbres, styles and audience responses.

The program began with the astringent “Purple Rhapsody,” composed in 2005 by Joan Tower, and featuring viola soloist Kathleen Overfield-Zook, who ably executed the considerable technical demands.

She also made the most of the brief lyrical moments in the piece with her warm, rich tone. Concertmaster Akemi Takayama, bassoonist Thomas Fleming and the adeptly attentive percussion section provided other important instrumental colors.

The main featured work was the lengthy 1936 choral masterpiece “Carmina Burana” by Carl Orff. Here, the RSO was joined by the Roanoke Symphony Chorus, the Roanoke Valley Children’s Choir and guest choruses from Liberty University and Southern Virginia University. Vocal soloists included Adelaide Trombetta, soprano; Christopher Swanson, tenor; and Robert Honeysucker, baritone. Eight dancers of the Southwest Virginia Ballet provided lively choreography at the front of the stage.

From the forceful thunder of the familiar opening “O Fortuna” all the way to its return an hour later, through a wide range of feelings and moods, conductor David Stewart Wiley led a powerful performance.

There were many highlights in this thrilling rendition. The combined choruses were expertly prepared and sang with impressive fullness and precision. Then there were the fine soloists — the rich baritone of Honeysucker, who took hold of the many vocal challenges with confidence; the comical tenor solo about the roasted swan was fully staged and its near-impossible tessitura ably conquered by Swanson; and the beautiful and highly expressive legato of Trombetta’s soprano was dramatic and touching. Her account of “In Trituna” was absolutely ravishing as she nailed the ascent up to a high D in “Dulcissime.”

The orchestra provided the necessary excellent support for the occasion, and Wiley expertly kept the entire group of singers, soloists and instrumentalists as a well-integrated ensemble. The extra visual excitement of the dancers made this a truly multimedia experience and a fine conclusion to the Masterworks Season.

Timothy Gaylard is professor of music at Washington and Lee University.