Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Noye's Fludde: Prepare for Embarkment

 Saturday, March 29th, 2014, the San Francisco Girls Chorus gave a wonderful performance of Noye's Fludde composed by the great Benjamin Britten. This was their 35th anniversary season and benefit gala performed at the Temple Emanu-El. The San Francisco Girls Chorus was founded in 1978 and is currently a "regional center for music education for girls and young women, ages 5-18".

The Voice of God was spoken by A.C.T. Artistic Director Carey Perloff. She is celebrating her 20th year as artistic director at A.C.T. Noye (Noah) was sung by bass-baritone Joe Damon Chappel. Being a native of Nashville, Tennessee and a graduate of Eastman School of Music, Mr. Chappel is the principle bass soloist with Bach Vespers at Holy Trinity. His singing displaced the audience into the world as it was for Noah. Silvie Jensen, the fabulous Mrs. Noye, did an excellent job at depicting the skeptical and mocking Mrs. Noye. Ms. Jensen engulfs herself into lots of different music genres: contemporary music, opera, musical theatre, and ethnic, improvised, and experimental music.

Silvie Jensen
In this children's opera, the parts of the animals, sons of Noah, and friends of Mrs. Noah are all played by children. The orchestra also consists of children musicians! The children singers also form a chorus of "Gossips". These are people with whom Mrs. Noah sits and drinks while laughing at her husband frantically building the ark. Mrs. Noah's joy ends when her sons grab her and drag her into the ark by force, leaving the "Gossips" to drown in their drunken state. The storm and flood to follow are depicted by troublesome music and the chorus sings the hymn Eternal Father, Strong To Save. 

After forty days and forty nights the flood ends and a rainbow comes out. The music depicts this beautiful and luminous scene of joy with bright sounds, while the animals and Noah with his family rejoice and sing The Spacious Firmament. The hymn ends this luscious opera with hosannah!
Elizabeth Avakian

A little background information about me: I was part of the wonderful San Francisco Girls Chorus in 2008-2009, and I found it to be a rewarding and fun experience! I am very grateful that I had the chance to be part of this musical community, but I found myself jealous that when I was there I never had a chance to run on stage with a wooden elephant on a stick in my hands...I did, however, perform at the San Francisco Symphony twice and that was super fun.

Joe Damon Chappel
Round of applause to Artistic Director Lisa Bielawa and to Music Director and Principle Conductor Valérie Sainte-Agathe. Biewala wrote in her letter to the audience:

This event is particularly special for me because I get to bring some superb colleagues into our midst - two enchanting singers that I have sung with for years, one of whom - Silvie Jensen - is already know to you as a fellow alumna, and the other, Joe Chappel, who may be familiar to some of you who came to see us perform side by side in "Einstein on the Beach" in Berkeley last season.

Music Director and Principal Conductor Valérie Sainte-Agathe wrote in her letter to the audience:

Emanu-El Temple from the inside

Without making any compromises in his language, "Noye's Fludde" is perfect for the San Francisco Girls Chorus and its 300 young singers. In our performance, each level of SFGC will have the opportunity to participate, surrounded by professional singers and instrumentalists.   

I would like to thank Elizabeth Avakian, Director of the SFGC, for preparing the young singers for these splendid concerts. I can say, as someone who has been part of this community, that she provides family-like environment for the girls at the chorus, producing collectively expressional music.

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