Three and a half stars
Butler Symphony Orchestra, University Choir and Chorale; Clowes Memorial Hall; April 15.
I was pleased that this program started off with an intimate, personal piece: Dr. Frank Felice’s Bitterroot Homecoming. This piece about Felice’s affinity for a river had a deeply peaceful quality to it, and Eric Stark and his choir conveyed those qualities well. The Butler Symphony Orchestra followed with some orchestral pieces of Walton’s, and then the choirs joined for his Coronation Te Deum. Walton took text from the Book of Common Prayer, but unfortunately, due to poor diction, one was not always able to hear the words. In addition, a sometimes sloppy orchestra (particularly in the violins) maimed this large, glorious work. After the intermission, conductor Richard Auldon Clark appropriately dedicated Ralph Vaughan Williams’ Toward the Unknown Region to the late Kurt Vonnegut. In this piece, Vaughan Williams set some of Walt Whitman’s poignant writing to music, and the choir and orchestra did this work justice. The concert concluded with Beethoven’s Choral Fantasy, a precursory work to his famed Ninth Symphony. Dr. Kate Boyd was the featured pianist, and opened and played throughout this august work with commendable skill.