Forever Fidelio: Ten Graduating Seniors Provide Memorable Spring Concert

The Fidelio Society has been heard on campus at various special events throughout the year; on numerous occasions it has filled the Chapel with the harmony of its outstanding voices, yet always from a distant vantage point in the organ loft. However, this past Friday at 7 p.m., the most selective vocal ensemble on campus descended to the stage of Cochran Chapel for an intimate spring concert. It was a humbling display. The Fidelio Society is an a cappella group composed of 14 students under the direction of Instructor in Music Carolyn Skelton. On their own, each member of Fidelio would stand out as a gifted and accomplished musician. Together, the 14 voices combine skill and artistry in formidable, and moving, performances. The three-part Spring Concert highlighted the depth and versatility of the Fidelio Society. The group’s extensive repertoire includes everything from classical and contemporary pieces to folk songs, pop hits and show tunes. However, the diverse offerings were united in their challenging melodies and powerful utilization of Fidelio’s wide vocal range. The society encompasses everything from the distinctive tones of soprano Ali Armstrong ’03 to James Chou ‘03’s deep bass, and plays off the strength of all four sections to deliver complex and original arrangements. The strength of the Fidelio Society depends on the seamless combination of its strong voices. However, the few solos included in the program were highlights of the evening as the audience was given an opportunity to recognize a few of the amazing voices in the ensemble. The first soloists were featured in the second song of the program, “Morning Glory, Starlit Sky” by Barry Rose. Soprano soloist Amy Stebbins ’03 rose above the other voices with her clear command of the music and breathtakingly rich tone. Tenor Dennis Corkery ’03 also demonstrated his remarkable voice and sensitivity to the music. The two solo performances perfectly complemented each other with their exceptional representations of their sections. The other soloist listed in the program, Peter Stetson ’03, also turned in a performance that stood out in a remarkable concert. Stetson’s solo, near the conclusion of the concert, showed the less serious musical side of Fidelio. Following on the heels of Luca Marenzio’s 16th-century “Gia Torna,” Rodger’s popular “Hello Young Lovers” from The King and I was an enjoyable, lighthearted selection. Stetson’s smooth bass voice and the creative a cappella arrangement in the background put a new spin on the well-known tune. However, Fidelio is often associated with complex classical music, which was well represented in the program. The many languages represented in classical portions of the concert included Latin, Italian, and French. Not surprisingly, the group demonstrated their comfort and exceptional experience navigating the different languages and difficult pieces. Their pronunciation and emphasis were flawless. Fidelio also approached the world of pop music as they sang Billy Joel’s “Lullabye.” The group handled the change of pace and complicated arrangement well, although other songs did a better job of bringing out the group’s particular talents. Some of the most powerful selections in the program were two songs written about the emotions surrounding music and singing. The first, Steven Sametz’s “I Have Had Singing,” merited special introduction from Skelton. Skelton relayed the story of one Welsh man’s unique relationship with song in a small village that lies at the heart of the song, concluding that the piece was an “unusual treat.” The piece featured the use of dissonance to bend the traditional harmonies into a truly unique work. The second song was one that has been featured in past Fidelio performances and is one of the group’s strongest pieces. “How Can I Keep From Singing?” by Robert Lowery seemed to capture the spirit of Fidelio perfectly. The lyrics describe an attachment to music and singing that seemed to apply to each member of group, and the composition sounded as if it was tailored to the specifications of the different voices. To conclude an impressive concert, “How Can I Keep From Singing?” continued the personal, touching display of talent that had characterized the entire performance. The Spring Concert was the last Fidelio performance for many of the senior members. As this year’s seniors graduate, new voices and underclassmen will rise to the Fidelio challenge.