If you are a fan of classical performance, opportunities were abundant this past weekend in Columbia. Classical music patrons had performances to choose from by the Odyssey Chamber Music Series, the Missouri Symphony Societies' Holiday Home Tour, The Columbia Chorale with the Columbia Civic Orchestra and the St. Louis Symphony at the Missouri Theatre. That we should we be so rich in classical performance every weekend.
Friday’s Odyssey concert was a feast for fans of piano, opera, choral and instrumental works. Not bad for a two hour show. Odyssey concerts are well-suited to the short-attention-span music fan. Not hearing something you like? Stick around. The players will likely shift within the next 15 minutes. Friday’s set featured four unique performance arrangements.
The Columbia Handbell Ensemble started the evening. Led by Ed Rollins, the ensemble featured a dozen players performing on a range of sized-bells. I might have hesitated to state that someone performs on the handbells before I saw the ensemble's rendition of We Three Kings. The ensemble’s members rang their bells, yes, but for their closing piece, they creatively fingered and slapped their brass bells on table in front of each player.
Local flute quartet I Quattri venti followed with a take on 20th century composer Pierre Max Dubois 1961 work Quatour for four flutes. I’ll freely admit that I have a bias against flutes and this may be shallow, however flutes are to me the epitome of a lush, schmaltzy Romantic sound from which I run. Here, the foursome proved me wrong that flutes couldn’t be interesting. The quartet dove in to their works with gusto. Each of the first three passages of Dubois composition delivered a descending tempo. The final movement was a rousing finale. I Quattri venti returned after intermission for a pair of recognizable dances from The Nutcracker. The Dance of the Reed Flutes and Danse Russe Trepak were familiar without excessive sentimentality. The interplay of rising and falling flutes was mesmerizing. A 2014 resolution? I take back my flute bias and work harder to seek out performances and recordings by groups with the creative drive of I Quattri venti.
Odyssey Chamber Music Series’ motto could well be: "...and now for something completely different." After the opening flute quartet Odyssey Artistic Director Ayako Tsuruta on piano joined soprano Christine Seitz. Seitz owned the pieces she sang that included poems by Edvard Grieg and Jean Sibelius. The force of her voice sometimes shook the singer and kept most audience members in rapt attention.
The theme for the evening was holiday songs. Christian carols were matched with Hanukah works. (No matter that the holiday ended a night or two before.) Showing great range was the Columbia-based choral group, The Elan Singers, who rounded out the evening with twelve accomplished vocalists sans instrumentation. They performed David Ludwig's Four Hanukah Songs. Various Elan vocalists took turns in the piece exhaling a range of chants, bleeps, hums and plain old English-language dialogue. The set and the show ended with Mkola Leontovich's familiar Carol of the Bells.