Review: Mendelssohn Club offers robust show

The Mendelssohn Club gave its 103rd spring concert Friday night at Chancellor’s Hall in a program th

The Mendelssohn Club gave its 103rd spring concert Friday night at Chancellor’s Hall in a program that featured patriotism, diversity and the joys of singing.

With pianist Michael Clement, who provided the instrumental anchor, and under the energetic leadership of Jeffrey Vredenburg, who became the 65-voice chorus’ conductor last fall, the all-male chorus sounded richly robust, confident and even rowdy in the various selections.

The concert began with the large crowd standing to sing the “Star Spangled Banner” with Vredenburg facing the crowd to direct. In the 1930s tune “This is My Country” by Don Raye and Al Jacobs, the chorus was enthusiastic with tight rhythms and impressed with its exceptional diction — something the men maintained throughout the evening.

The famous “Navy Hymn,” written in the 19th century, featured baritone Kennoth Carnes, who did nicely. The chorus also showed off a range of dynamic levels. In “How Can I Keep From Singing,” which was an early 1800s Quaker hymn arranged by Vermonter Gwyneth Walker in the last few years, the chorus displayed strongly edged sections as it moved from mostly unison singing to occasional part singing.

Vredenburg has obviously been working the men with a disciplined hand and the solid results were positive proof. It helped that he kept the tempos moving, rarely lingered, and that the chorus’ ability to sing at the various dynamic levels had improved. The men were especially resonant at full volume and found a delicate clarity at the softer levels. Only in the middle range did the men sound less sure.

Before the men sang more tunes, the Kindred Spirits Quintet played some jazz: Dave Brubeck’s “Take Five” and the standard “All the Things You Are.” The crowd seemed to enjoy the quintet.

The chorus resumed with “Why We Sing” by Greg Gilpin. Despite the staggered entrances and four-part singing, the chorus sounded confident and exuberant. In “Ain’-A That Good News” by William Dawson, which was a kind of Afro-American spiritual, assistant conductor Michael Wright ably led a bouncy and very upbeat chorus. The tune is tricky with the quick lyrics and rhythmic changes, but the men sounded terrific.

The first half closed with “Bless This House” by Mary Brahe and Helen Taylor and “God of Our Fathers,” written in the 19th century.

The second half included a variety of tunes including a cowboy ballad, a traditional Southern folk song, “Take Me Out to the Ballgame,” and a George M. Cohan medley. Michael Clement soloed in a Scott Joplin rag and the Kindred Spirits played a bit of jazz.

Emily Finnegan, the 2012 Albany Tulip Queen, and her four-member court were presented and the three winners of the 2012 Joel Dolven Vocal Awards were announced — Rebecca Rogers, Lindsay McCandless and Jack Mallory.

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