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The Worst Mid-Concert Speech Ever

March 30, 2010

IMG_0244.JPGChanticleer's first National Youth Choral Festival drew to a close last night with a concert featuring some 400 high school students from around the country, the members of Chanticleer and guest mezzo-soprano Frederica von Stade.

From a musical perspective, it was a delightful and galvanizing event in many respects. The enormous chorus led by Chanticleer music director Matt Oltman brought feeling and energy to such cannonical masterworks as William Byrd's "Ave Verum Corpus" and arrangements of well-known songs like "Shenandoah". The only programmatic blip was the inclusion of "Annonciation" a dirge-like and academic 20th century choral work in the wannabe-Messiaen mode by the French composer Daniel-Lesur.

The strangest thing about the concert, however, was a 20-minute speech given by Ben Johns, Chanticleer's dynamic director of education. Johns had clearly put a lot of work into making the five-day festival happen. Perhaps the workload was finally taking its toll on him. For the speech he gave in the middle of the concert was at best rambling and at worst irrelevant. As I sat there listening to Johns bang on about how almost every digital gizmo, IT office program and online tool known to mankind, from Twitter to spreadsheets to Skype, had helped to pull the festival together, I found myself getting more and more irritated. Was the festival being sponsored by Facebook or Apple? Who was the speech aimed at? And why mention fax machines (technological dinosaurs at this point) at least three times?

Still, the idea of having audience members turn on their cellphones and take photographs of all the singers on stage at the end of the speech was a sweet touch. Chanticleer is very jealous of its image and normally forbids photography and recording of any kind. But being able to snap a shot and email it on to friends and family spread some warmth around the auditorium. I sent a picture (above) to a friend who was supposed to attend the concert but had to back out at the last minute. She texted me back, pleased.

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