Review of March 14 2003 Concert, Westborough



Mastersingers excite 500 in winter concert

By Carla Paulson Mason

Diversely talented musical groups continue to thrill Westborough audiences with, outstanding performances in the Charlotte Spinney Auditorium’s first year of service. Assabet Valley Mastersingers drew about 500 people to its first visit last Sunday afternoon.

Music Director Robert Eaton’s well-trained singers nicely delineated the serenity of Johannes Brahms’ “Nanie” (Elegy) from the emotional excitement of Carl Orff’s “Carmina Burana.”

As an 1982 alumna of WHS active in musicals, visiting the new auditorium for the first time, I was also thrilled by its spaciousness and acoustics! It has comfortable roomy seats and good sight lines, and I loved the view from the balcony. Seeing Westborough friends on the stage and in the seats heightened my anticipation!

Elegy was very relaxing.  The introduction, beautifully performed by Judy Yauckoes, was soothing and a wonderful preparation for the piece. I didn’t want it to end!

The intermission that immediately followed puzzled me “What if I’m not ready to get up?” my companion asked, who learned in Theater 101 that intermission was for the audience, not the performers.

Was something’ missing? No. Shortly, an ensemble of pianists and percussionists walked onto the stage, followed by the 72-voice chorus  and Soprano Priscilla Gale, Tenor Rockland Osgood and Baritone Donald Wilkinson.

I had my answer.

“Carmina Burana” is a lengthy, exciting and complex work with 25 movements. A talented, well-rehearsed and patient group of 24 children further swelled the stage to participate in several of the movements. The program’s libretto and English translations printed in the program enabled
us to understand and appreciate the work’s emotional nuances.

Following along in my program, even though I don’t speak Medieval Latin or Middle German, I could relate the context of the poems to the singers’ expressions and the alternating clamor and softness of the excellent percussionists and dueling pianos.  Because of the translation, the humor of the poetry was not lost.  Heads throughout the audience bobbed as the singers and instrumentalists musically danced through the arrival of spring, the “party” in the tavern and the somewhat difficult rite of courtship.

In the rousing “Tempus est iocundum,” a growing number of singers rejoiced in “bursting with love!” Throughout all the  movements, the performers displayed their ability to rejoice and express sorrow with vastly different musical expression.

This concert was a pleasure to attend, and I look forward to their 25th anniversary performance on May 10.

Review of March 19 2006 Concert, Southborough

Amy Beach’s “Ghost” joins Lexington’s Pamela Marshall and VT’s Dr. Gwyneth Walker in lively pre-concert “Meet the Composers” revelation of their similar philosophies

By Bob Paulson, Bedazzled Male Admirer

A knock on the stage door interrupted Assabet Valley Mastersingers’ Artistic Director Dr. Robert P. Eaton’s sober-miened introductions of two living American composers seated on the stage for the pre-concert briefing session. He had just mentioned that Bostonian Amy Beach would probably not appear, because at 139 years old she didn’t get around that much any more. As he opened the door, however, Mrs. Beach’s elegantly clad “ghost” flounced in, taking umbrage at Dr. Eaton’s apologia: “I may not have a good memory any more, but that’s because I’ve been dead for so long!” (The “ghost” was really veteran soprano Alene Cole from Hudson, a quick-witted version of Ms. Beach.)

Left to Right: Dr. Robert Eaton, Pamela Marshall, Alene Cole as Amy Beach, Dr. Gwyneth Walker

Left to Right: Dr. Robert Eaton, Pamela Marshall, Alene Cole as Amy Beach, Dr. Gwyneth Walker

She set the tone for a mirth-filled and informative give-and-take among the three composers. Dr. Eaton interrupted occasionally to ask questions, which when answered further enlightened the captivated pre-concert audience. The ladies’ responses delineated the strong commonality of their separately conceived approaches to finding satisfaction for their goals of being unique creators of works of art for American choruses, choirs and orchestras, and smaller mixed ensembles. Especially laugh-provoking was an interchange in which 11th-generation Quaker Dr. Walker misunderstood Mrs. Beach’s description of American women as “the weaker sex.” She declaimed: “American women composers are not the weaker sex! It might even be male American composers!” The audience applauded in agreement.

Dr. Eaton’s selection of works of three female American composers, each with generational roots in Massachusetts, made the program much more than a performance of choral works written by women. The composers’ recollections of familial support of their musical composition career interests undergirded a commonality—that they were each encouraged to follow their heart’s desires in musical creative activities dominated by men.

The two 20th century “baby boomers” did not identify any instances of male-inspired obstacles or creative constraints to development of their individual compositional styles and use of enhancing instrumental melodies and tonalities. The opposite was true for Mrs. Beach. Prior to the opening day premiere of her Festival Jubilateat the Chicago Columbian World’s Fair in 1892, traditional males had…called it “lacking in majesty and breadth,” containing too many “quartets and ruffles,” and characterized her as “one with ordinary merit as compared to men but good for a woman.” To his chagrin, her principal male detractor was the Exposition Musical Director, forced to debut the work performed by a 300-voice Chicago chorus and full symphony orchestra!

In their works Ms. Marshall and Ms. Walker had both written parts for at least a dozen different harmonious noise-making instruments. They kept Brent Ferguson and Dan Hann twirling and tapping throughout the three sections of each work. Ms. Marshall also wrote a gorgeous part for oboist Ron Kaye in Weaving the World, adding meaning to the real world’s sounds associated with birth and natural death, as differentiated from the percussive sounds associated with violent death in war.

Accompanist Judith Yauckoes, now in her 15th year as AVM accompanist after a long career in public school music education, as usual was warmly applauded for sensitively playing extraordinarily challenging accompaniment in all three works.


Assabet Valley Mastersingers with Judy Yauckoes, piano; Dr. Robert Eaton, Director; Ron Kaye, oboe; Dan Hann, percussion; Brent Ferguson, percussion