On March 29 at 8:00pm, I attended the concert "My Soul's Repose" which was presented by "The Singers". The ensemble was conducted by our very own Matthew Culloton. It was very interesting to view a conductor I know well working with different singers. The groups seemed extremely connected to Matthew and there seemed to be wonderful communication from both parties.
From the beginning with William Byrd's "Sing Joyfully", Matthew was able to establish a exciting, buoyant sound. It gestures were extremely round and he traveling in a very smooth, circular motion. This was visible in the choir because the singers seemed to use their bodies to feel and experience the music. Through the entire concert, Matthew was very relaxed but in complete control. This allowed the singers to seem more relaxed and able to express more extreme dynamics. Furthermore, Matthew had fabulous releases on every piece. I have never performed in the Basilica of St. Mary but I have performed in similarly large spaces with insane acoustics; I know how easy it is to have the sound sink immediately following a piece. Also, releases were lifted and soared to the back of the large space.
The repertoire for the concert was incredible and I enjoyed every piece. I have to say, I was extremely excited to hear Rachmaninoff's "Vespers (All-Night Vigil)"; it has to be one of my favorite choral works. Matthew was able to fully express the gorgeous extremes throughout the entire concert but I was especially impressed with this particular set (more specifically "Rejoice, O Virgin/ Bogoroditse Devo"). For the larger moments, Matthew took advantage of his circular, sweeping motions. For the intimate, sensitive moments, Matthew quieted down his gestures, brought them in closer to his body, and sometime influenced the sound/dynamic with a simple change in his hand position.
As we all know, Matthew Culloton is an extremely dynamic individual and last night, he was able to bring that energy and knowledge into his conducting. I learned a lot from this concert observation: active versus inactive gestures, sweeping motion, conductor-ensemble interaction, and learning when a conductor is needed versus simply letting the singers do their thing! Great concert!