Salt Lake Choral Artists celebrate 15 years with a glorious “Elijah”

Sun Apr 28, 2019 at 10:31 am
By Edward Reichel

Brady Allred conducted the Salt Lake Choral Artists in Mendelssohn’s “Elijah” Saturday night.

The Salt Lake Choral Artists under music director Brady Allred have been celebrating the choir’s 15th anniversary this season. The culmination of their milestone year came Saturday at Libby Gardner Concert Hall with a stirring performance of Mendelssohn’s great oratorio Elijah.

The 1846 work tells the story of the Hebrew prophet through passages taken from Old Testament verses. A powerful work, it shows Mendelssohn at the height of his compositional creativity and at his most intense. Unlike much of Mendelssohn’s orchestral music, Elijah is riven with emotion, and filled with beautiful arias and dramatic choruses.

It is also clearly indebted to Handel’s oratorios. Mendelssohn learned much about form and structure from his interest in baroque music, knowledge he brought to bear in his choral masterpiece.

The version that Allred decided is the English translation by Robert Shaw in the late choral conductor’s unpublished performance edition. And for those who think that the work should be sung in its original German, Shaw crafted a meticulous translation that captures the rhythm and flow of the original without losing the meaning and context of the Old Testament words.

Allred is a consummate choral conductor who knows how to bring out the best in his choral forces. And even though the Salt Lake Choral Artists is a community choir, they perform with a professionalism that is impressive.

The grouping on Saturday consisted of Choral Artists’ Chamber Choir and Vocal Artists divisions, and everybody sang with conviction. The delivery was clean and well-articulated, the artistry and musicianship audible in beautifully phrased singing.

Of particular note were the choruses “Thanks be to God” that ended the first of the oratorio’s two parts, and “For the Lord hath raised up” that closed the work.

Among the soloists, baritone Seth Keeton stood out as Elijah, with an imposing stage presence and bearing that did justice to the character. Keeton has a strong and resonant voice, and a wonderful, lyrical flexibility and flow to go with the power. He showcased all of these qualities with the poignant, emotionally charged aria, “It is enough, O Lord.”

Carol Ann Allred gave a memorable performance in several roles, deploying a supple, richly expressive soprano perfectly suited for this music. In her extended scene as the Widow questioning Keeton’s Elijah in Part I, “What have I to do with thee, O man of God?” Allred brimmed with emotive energy.

Mezzo-soprano Valerie Hart Nelson’s voice has a burnished, warm tone that is mellow yet powerful. Among her numerous solo moments, the aria “O rest in the Lord” was a deeply affecting standout, while her aria with chorus, “Have ye not heard,” was rousing for its dramatic impact.

Tenor Tyler Nelson sang the part of Obadiah with lyrical ease and a vibrant voice that met all the role’s many demands on vocal expressiveness — especially in the Part I recitative and aria, “Ye people, rend your hearts”/“If with all your hearts.”

Boy soprano Benjamin Bird, a member of the Salt Lake Children’s Choir, was a delight in his short interlude with Keeton. Also cast were Soprano Michelle Pedersen and mezzo-soprano Demaree Clayson Brown, who joined mezzo Nelson and soprano Allred in the lovely angel quartet, “Above him stood the Seraphim.”

The chorus and soloists were accompanied by an orchestra consisting of local freelance musicians. They played with crisp, precise articulation and execution. Cellist Julie Bevan Reed played a heartfelt solo in Elijah’s aria, “It is enough, O Lord” as did oboist Susan Swidnicki in Elijah’s arioso, “Through the mountains.”

The Salt Lake Choral Artists Women’s Choir sings works of Elaine Hagenberg, Shawn Kirchner and Ola Gjeilo, 7:30 p.m. May 1 at St. Ambrose Catholic Church.

One Response to “Salt Lake Choral Artists celebrate 15 years with a glorious “Elijah””

  1. Posted May 01, 2019 at 5:27 pm by TRENT

    Dr. Allred can do amazing things with anyone who can sing. More people should be involved with this choir. Come join the SLCA family.

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