Yet Another Well-Kept Chattanooga State Secret

Wednesday, April 30, 2014 - by Tom Hammett
It has been quite a while since I have worked directly with Maestro Darrin Hassevoort, but in every instance, his work has been solid and respectable. Tuesday night’s Masterworks concert was no exception.

The Concert Choir is an excellent ensemble of some 28 singers, accompanied on piano by Janelle McDonald. Following a golden rule of concert programming, Hassevoort held the performance to just under one hour. I was taught that if a concert goes over one hour, you should give away a car as a door prize.

The first portion of the concert presented three choral selections from standard literature including Barber, Brahms and Gawthrop. The choir produces a remarkable balance with a rich choral tone. Their diction is unusually clean, and Hassevoort’s conducting is quite masterful. Their excellent choral techniques help to create lovely and effective interpretation.

An extra treat on the program was the professional piano quintet. Familiar musicians including Concert Master: Mark Reneau, Violin: Sheri Peck, Viola: Laurie Redmer Minner, Cello: Eric Reed, and Piano: Alan Nichols made up an exquisite instrumental ensemble. The viola was particularly expressive and musical during the Elgar number.

Hassevoort programmed a new composer to my ear this evening. Two works by Ola Gjeilo (b. 1978) highlighted the best of the choir’s abilities. The choir was infused with resilient energy within the context of a warm and charming ambiance. The piano quintet served not only as a handsomely balanced accompaniment, but as an integral part of the music.

I observed two additional qualities during the evening. First, the Chattanooga State Choral Department is in excellent hands under the direction of Darrin Hassevoort. With the passing and retirement of many of the giants of the last generation of conductors, one might wonder about the future of quality music in our culture. Hassevoort helps assuage any anxiety concerning musical leadership and quality education of young musicians. Second, young composers such as Ola Gjeilo assure the solidity of high-quality, serious composition for vocal and instrumental ensembles for many years to come.  

I was pleasantly surprised once again by the outstandingly collegiate sound of the Chattanooga State Community College Music Department Concert Choir and instrumental quintet. Their robust maturity allows them to hold their own with commanding assurance in our cultural community.


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