In performance: Tapestry
This Tapestry proves uneven fabric
by Joan Reinthaler
Tapestry, a women's vocal ensemble headquartered in Boston, is celebrating its 15th year. On Friday, its concert at the Library of Congress was also the first event in the city-wide festival "America Sings in the Nation's Capital," a celebration of American music written for the voice.
It started off so well -- the four women who make up the vocal contingent of Tapestry and Friends, weaving their way through the sinuous lines of the lullaby "Lyuluala, Lyuluala." The song's title is its text, and these particular voices, brightly colored, well-focused and agile, caressed the vowel sounds and shaped gorgeous textures. But then there was another piece quite like the first, this time with "Lu Lu" as a text, and then Lay Kar Kho's meditation on the word "Ume," and then a wordless "Vocalise" by Robert Kyr. By this time, the program was approaching vowel-and-sinuous-line overload and was clearly ready for a text with bite and hard consonants to give the music definition and rhythmic excitement.
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Fortunately Alan Hovhaness's "Ave Maria" came along to ease the program out of its sleepy doldrums and Joan Szymko's excellent and incisive "Nada te Turbe" finished the job of waking it up. The movement toward action was nailed down in one last pre-intermission blast, by a terrific Roma folk setting for clarinet, violin percussion that served as a prelude to James Falzone's "Beri'ah," scored for these instruments and for voices, that had the singers moving in ritualistic circles around the stage and singing in ever-more-urgent entreaties.
The second half of the program featured folksong and hymn settings, some lively Scottish and Irish tunes, Billy Holiday's "God Bless the Child" and an arrangement for women's voices of Barber's "Stopwatch and an Ordnance Map" (it's better in its original for men).
Soprano Cristi Catt and Diana Brewer, mezzo Laurie Monahan and alto Daniela Tosi have forged a splendid sense of ensemble. Clarinetist James Falzone and percussionist Takaaki Masuko provided subtle spice, but violinist Shira Kammen, who most often played a replica of a medieval vielle, provided many of the evening's finest moments with smooth and stylish transitions between pieces and, as a voice in the ensemble, a delightful sense of phrase and inflection.
-- Joan Reinthaler
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