The Jackson Choral Society at St. Andrew's Episcopal Cathedral, Nov 17, 2016

   This was the first concert with the new director of the Jackson Choral Society, Jonathan Trotter (shown at the right), and it was an impressive start. It opened with Hubert Parry's "I Was Glad When They Said unto Me", composed for the coronation of England's King Edward VII in 1902. Parry is probably best known for the hymn tune Jerusalem, featured in the movie "Chariots of Fire". Next was Handel's "But Thanks Be to God", containing polyphonic passages in the style of a choral fugue, that most democratic choral structure, where every voice gets to shine in turn, and something I thirst for in every choral program. Vaughan-Williams' "O Clap Your Hands" followed, and then Haydn's "Te Deum" in C, where the accompinament shifted from organ to piano. I was glad to hear the organ used; in so much choral music the piano is the default, when, in many cases the organ is a better choice.

The program now entered the land of the living with two hymn settings, "Come Ye Thankful People, Come" and "God of Our Fathers", by Mark Wilberg (b. 1955), currently Artistic Director of the Mormon Tabernacle Choir. These were vary satisfying, with what sounded like four part men's voices (TTBB), and a persistent processional rhythm DA_da-da-da_DAH_DAH in "God of Our Fathers". Aaron Copland's "The Promise of Living" (from his opera "A Tender Heart") followed, with a lean texture. It included references to "Zion's Walls", a hymn tune from the 19th century. That recalled, for me, at least, a reminder of Zion National Park (SE Utah), named by early Mormon Settlers. That, in turn, recalls the opening of Psalm 121 ("I Will Lift Up Mine Eyes Unto the Hills").

John Rutter's charming "For the Beauty of the Earth", sung passionately, followed, perhaps Rutter's best known work. Then Norman Dello Joio's "A Jubilant Song" was sung; it was described as containing elements of "Gregorian melodies, jazz rhythms, and Hindemithian harmonies", and was given a jubilant performance.

The program closed with Ola Gjeilo's meditative "Evening Prayer" for tenor saxophone (Maurice Hillman), piano and chorus. Gjeilo expressed the hope that both the instruments introduce an element of improvisation. This was a fitting end to the program and indeed to the evening.

Three accompanists were used: Tommy Creel, Tyler Kemp, and Angela Willoughby. It was not possible to see was playing at any particular time, because of the obscure locations of the organ console and the piano. Nevertheless, all accompaniments were excellent. In summary, this was a wonderful program, and a very auspicious start for director Jonathan Trotter. Right on!

It is interesting to note that in this week's reviews, all three organizations have had a stable presence in Jackson for decades, and we are grateful for them:
Jackson Choral Society [JCS]                          56 years
The American Guild of Organists [AGO]       62 years (Jackson Chapter)
                                                                             >100 years (National AGO)
Metropolitan Chamber Orchestra [MCO]     33 years

We also are grateful to St. Andsrew's Episcopal Cathedral for providing a satisfying venue - both acoustically and visually - for our community for many decades.

Glenn A. Gentry