Sunday afternoon Laura and I attended the Service of Lessons and Carols at Furman. For the past 15 years, the Furman Chamber Choir has been presenting the program in Daniel Chapel. Tickets are incredibly hard to obtain, and we were lucky enough to get a couple of the 5:00 service.
As a choir director I’ve always loved the format of the Lessons and Carols service. The service covers the entire story story of the Gospel, from Fall to Redemption. From an organizational standpoint it’s great – it’s an excellent opportunity for the congregation to participate in the readings, and it’s flexible enough to allow for new pieces as well as traditional favorites.
Sunday’s performance by the Chamber Choir was flawless, as far as I can tell. My friend and fellow singer Dr. Albert Blackwell described the sound as “sidereal,” which I thought an odd choice of terms at the time. However, the heavenly, star-like quality to the music makes the term appropriate.
Dr. Bill Thomas is director of the Chamber Choir, and he likes the pure British choral sound. There is very little vibrato, and the phrasing and shape of each notes is precise and lovely. I’ve had the pleasure of working with Bill with the Heritage Chamber Singers, and he used that same approach when working with us. I like doing the large pieces with the Greenville Chorale, such as the various requiems, etc, However, the refine precision of a small chamber ensemble is something I miss. Even the Chorale’s Chamber Ensemble hasn’t been able to capture this sound. The Furman Chamber Choir, though, had it spot on, and sounded…well, sidereal. It was quite a pleasant experience.
4 thoughts on “Lessons and Carols”
I am SO envious! Wanted to be in this service for several years, but it isn’t going to happen. Love your commentary on the sound – I wish I had the opportunity to sing in such a group as well. But hearing such a group would be … about as good as it gets.
I don’t know about now, but my “take” on the Chorale chamber group about 5 years ago was that there were singers in it who are good soloists, but there is a need in such a group for people with the mindset of a chorister and someone who wants to blend. It’s a different type singing altogether. The group is much better these days, but it still isn’t really as good of an ensemble as the talent of the members would lead me to expect. That’s not a cut, and it’s much closer than, say, back in 05 or so.
Dr. Blackwell is a member of our church and while I still enjoy the music at St. James it certainly isn’t the same since he “retired” as our choir director.
I love the Lutheran church, but I love the choral tradition of the Anglican/Episcopal church. Was wondering what kind of music St James has.
Ken – I completely agree about the current Chamber Ensemble. Strong solo voices don’t necessarily mean a good choral sound. The past couple of years there has been a better blend, but part of that has been due to selection or repertoire that has complemented the voices.
I spent a year in Tucson, Arizona, and sang with the Arizona Repertory Singers. That group had a great sound, very similar the Furman Chamber Choir (but not quite as refined.) When I got back to Greenville I was looking for a similar group, but never really found it. Heritage Chamber Singers came close.