The Mendelssohn Club closed its 105th concert season Friday night at Chancellor’s Hall with an entertaining program that was expertly prepared.
Under the sure hand of conductor Jeffrey Vredenburg and Michael Clement’s skillful tickling of the piano keys, the 66 men sang their hearts out in a program of favorites. The concert was also a fundraiser for the Onrust Project on the 400th anniversary of Dutch explorer Adriaen Block becoming the first to map the state as captain of the ship Onrust.
The show began with a medley from “South Pacific.” The tone was mellow, balanced, and resonant, the tempos just right, and the men sang with smiles on their faces. Several men had solos, including tenors Mike Aviza (2007) and Clark Cooper (1995), baritone Bill Carmello (1974) and bass Bob Gibson (1991).
Since the program was centered on water, the men also sang a 1920s hit arranged by then-club conductor Mark Andrews, “Sea Fever,” which was robust and catchy; a 1960s Czech ballad, “Waters Ripple and Flow;” and a haunting 1906 arrangement by Harry Burleigh of “Deep River,” with Michael Wright conducting. They also sang a Robert Shaw/Alice Parker arrangement that Vredenburg said was “slightly odd ... a wild ride,” “The Drummer and the Cook.” Diction was especially clear on this very quick tune.
Between the two sets was a performance by the guest trio Jamcrackers, made up of guitarist/vocalist Peggy Lynn, guitarist/vocalist Dan Berggren and hammered dulcimer extraordinaire Dan Duggan. The trio played folk music of the Adirondacks, strophic songs of many stanzas that were sweet, thoughtful or plain “wow” for instrumental technique. The trio also played a second set later with the addition of folklorist George Ward, who used a squeezebox for exclamation.
Another club set came from discoveries Vredenburg made out of the thousands of songs the club owns music to. He carefully chose material within the men’s capabilities, which allowed them to shine. The sound was vibrant, phrases finished and dynamic levels always well controlled. Among these chestnuts were a robust Czech folk song, “Aj Lucka, Lucka;” a lovely “Aura Lee;” and two classic glee club tunes, “My Comrades” and “Down Among the Dead Men.”
The concert ended with three interesting songs: a Gaelic “Mouth Music,” a Scottish traditional “Loch Lomond” and “Muddy Water” from the 1985 musical “Big River.”
As is tradition, this year’s Tulip Queen, Caitlin Whelen, and her court were introduced and the four winners of the Joel Dolven Vocal Awards were announced.