IHS Choir’s Advisory Concert both Disappoints and Fulfills Expectations

An ambivalent performance leads to an ambivalent review

By Jenny Lu

On February 4, Irvington choir hosted an advisory concert at Valhalla, inviting various advisories to attend and listen to performances by Concert Choir, Chamber Chorale, and the Treble Ensemble. Choir members were donned in everyday clothes, lending the concert a relaxed and casual atmosphere. The whole set was mediocre in terms of aesthetic appeal, dampened from the piano placed in the middle of the stage that blocked the view of various choir members.

The concert started off with Concert Choir singing “Hakuna Matata,” in preparation for the Disney themed concert in June. The performance was slightly dampened and disappointing with the fact that the choir members had to read sheet music, since the song only has a few repeated phrases. Many choir members also looked like they would rather be anywhere but up on stage, providing a clear and ironic juxtaposition to the happy tune they were singing. In direct contrast to the repeated maxims urging us to live happy, problem-free lives, the concert, at this point, looked to be a dull and bleak occasion.

However, the next choir, Chamber Chorale, changed mine, and I’m sure many others, complete outlook of the concert. This choir seemed to take up less than half the space that Concert Choir did, but it was double in volume and clarity. They started off with my favorite performance of the show: “When you go a-courtin’.” The blending of their voices was impeccable and seemed to merge into one, which was also helped by their unanimous emphasis on the same consonants, enabling the listener to directly comprehend the lyrics. At times, however, the combination of the voices of the altoes and sopranos resembled a sharp shriek that pierced my ears and made me wince. Chamber then performed another song, ­­­­­­­­­­­“Things That Never Die,” with equal vigor and spirit. The applause for this choir was enthusiastic, and shocked phrases of, “Wow, that was so good,” could be heard whispered throughout the theater.

Next, the Chamber ladies and Treble Ensemble performed a few songs. They started off with a rendition of “The Last Blue Rose,” which, according to Mrs. Olson, choir director, is about “the blue rose, which represents the only thing that exists that you’re longing for.” The choir gave a sullen and emotional performance reflecting the tone of the song, but at times, I felt the performance to be uncomfortably maudlin. The next song, “Ma, He’s Making Eyes at Me,” was wonderfully performed and fun to listen to.

“This song is about a young girl who flirts with boys and gets upset when the boys flirt back,” said Mrs. Olson. “It’s about a different type of love.” The humorous lyrics and fun performance elicited quite a few chuckles from the audience.

The concert was supposed to end after this song, but due to the urges of many audience members, Treble Ensemble and Chamber ladies performed an encore. This song, “­­­­­­Set Me as A Seal,” is a required piece for the competition that the choir is entering. For this competition, normally the top 10 women’s choirs in Northern California are invited, but this year, only the top 7 choirs were invited. After hearing them perform the previous two choirs, I am not at all surprised that Irvington’s choir is top 7 in Northern California. However, this encore piece was sloppily performed and I could not understand a single word in the song as the words were all enunciated differently. It felt like listening to a giant conglomeration singing what seemed to be different songs that held the same tune. The fact that Mrs. Olson hit many a wrong note on the piano throughout the performance did not help with the coherence of the songs overall.

On another note, a concert isn’t simply about the singing and the performance—it’s also about the atmosphere and the little details that make each and every concert utterly unique. The small moments are often what speak the loudest, such as when Mrs. Olson and the Treble and Chamber ladies shared a joke or when Mrs. Marsella-Jensen was the first to yell, “Encore!” The secret glances between choir members, the smiles, the same t-shirts that some Treble ladies and Mrs. Olson wore that boldly stated, “Treble… Just hold me,” with a fermata (a music pun) all contributed to one of the most memorable advisories that I’ve ever experienced.