Recital falls flat

Mount Allison began its series of three Mid-Week Music guest recitals with “A Little Light Music,” featuring soprano Jane Leibel, Christine Carter on clarinet, and Maureen Volk on piano. The trio performed light songs and dances from George Gershwin,  John Greer, Clifford Crawley and D. F. Cook.

The concert contained all the components of a great show. The performers each boasted impressive resumes, glowing reviews and prestigious performance histories. The light-hearted repertoire engaged listeners, but the execution came off as awkward and lackluster. The performers, especially Leibel, appeared unfamiliar with the repertoire and uncomfortable with its style.

The artists’ discomfort with the repertoire was obvious from the first piece, Viva Gershwin!, a medley of Gershwin’s songs. The piano and clarinet nearly drowned out Leibel, who seemed to be attempting to sing jazz in an entirely operatic, Wagnerian style – an experiment that did not work out in her favour. Although the Carter and Volk duet kept a solid groove and held  the piece together,  their cohesion could not remedy the concert’s awkward start.

The concert improved with the two middle pieces, the style of which fit the ensemble’s skill set much better. Leider appeared more comfortable with this style, and her overdramatic acting suited the eccentricities of the collection A Sarah Binks Bestiary. This set of songs, by Canadian composer Greer, presented a humourous look at prairie life and its inhabitants through the eyes of the quirky Sarah Binks.

Selections from Crawley’s Personal Column also seemed well-prepared, both by the individuals and the ensemble as a whole. However, there were points at which the acting transported the music from witty and humourous to simply tacky. Nonetheless, this set, especially “Escort Service,” was a highlight of the concert.

The final song on the program shattered the brief illusion of preparation that the previous two pieces had fostered. After talking for an uncomfortably long time, Leider forgot her music offstage, then announced that the ensemble would be performing “Lukey’s Boat” from Five Songs from Newfoundland by Cook, rather than what the ensemble was actually performing: “Jack Was Every Inch A Sailor” from the same set.

The final set felt approximately as well-prepared as its opening remarks, and the concert ended on the same lackluster note with which it had started, despite some impressive, virtuosic moments from Carter and Volk.

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