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REVIEW Audience shares Greenville Symphony's enthusiasm

Thursday, February 26, 2004

The men's chorus presented an outstanding performance.
GREENVILLE, Pa. -- Joined by the Penn-Ohio Singers, Greenville Symphony presented an action-packed "All American" Concert on Saturday night in the beautiful William A. Passavant Memorial Center.
The large, domed hall, one of the finest acoustically in Western Pennsylvania, was nearly filled with enthusiastic patrons.
Michael Gelfand, the musical director, had the businesslike lively air of a circus ringmaster as he entered the stage bedecked in a flaming-red sports jacket and later donned cowboy hat and vest for the performance of Copland's "Hoe-Down" from the ballet, "Rodeo."
For the Copland, Gelfand conducted entries and cutoffs of audience shouting to add to the cowboy atmosphere. In the tribute medley to Henry Mancini, he cued audience finger-snapping to the familiar strains of the "Pink Panther" theme.
High points were the orchestra's performance of George Gershwin's "American in Paris," complete with an array of raucous taxi horns simulating Paris traffic, and the lovely a cappella set by the Penn-Ohio Singers.
Concertmaster Ethan Howard's soulfully expressive Gershwin solos were supported by excellent orchestral and soloistic playing. The hall's acoustical clarity supported a fine performance as the various solos emerged clearly. Only in a few loud tuttis did the balance become a problem and the small string section struggled to be heard.
Praise for singers
The Penn-Ohio Singers, a men's chorus specializing in barbershop harmony, were absolutely terrific in their varied, unaccompanied set. In addition to barbershop pieces, they performed a lovely arrangement of Johnny Mathis' 1957 hit, "Chances Are."
"American Trilogy" was a Civil War tribute performed with flawless renditions of "Dixie," "Glory, Glory, Halleluia" and "Hush Little Baby Don't You Cry." The singers had wonderful control of vocal color, harmonic accuracy and marvelous dynamic contrasts.
The Pennsylvania premiere of Linda Robbins Coleman's "The Celebration, A Symphonic Jubilee" was entertaining, but the opening movement, "The Invitation," seemed a bit hackneyed in its use of familiar scale passages.
"The Life of the Party," a ragtime number, suffered from juxtaposition with the earlier skillful performance of Scott Joplin's "The Entertainer."
The lively "Tango" with excellent percussion followed without pause by "Jubilation (The Grand Finale)," was by far the most successful movement and included some nice contrapuntal string textures and an effective cyclical opening theme reprise for a fine ending.
Coleman is a talented orchestrator, but next to the wonderful effects in the two familiar Leroy Anderson numbers, her music seemed a bit bland. The lovely controlled playing by trumpet soloists Thomas Jeffries, Plimpton Graul Jr., and Nick Samson in Anderson's "Bugler's Holiday" was truly outstanding.
All evening the group had a certain noisy enthusiasm, particularly in its horns, trombones and percussion, that made the music sparkle.