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MSA Chorale mesmerizes Matinee Musicale

On Feb. 15, the Mississippi School of the Arts Chorale delighted the members of Matinee Musicale with a varied, well-prepared program of vocal music. The group took fine advantage of the good acoustics in the sanctuary of First United Methodist Church, which graciously provided the meeting place.

The concert began by showcasing several student soloists. Kismyu Griffith sang “When I Have Sung My Songs,” by Earnest Charles, and Briar Blakely performed “My Lord and Master,” from “The King and I.”

After hearing these lovely soprano voices, the audience heard the fine baritone voice of Anjwon Eaddy rendering “If I Sing,” from “Closer Than Ever.” Director Patton Rice ended the soloist section with a beautiful rendition of “Ol’ Man River,” from “Show Boat.”

The chorale sang a dozen pieces, some with organ or piano accompaniment and others a capella. Two movements from Vivaldi’s “Gloria” mass were accompanied on the organ by Steve Russell. The chorus then sang two madrigals by Emma Lou Diemer showing their good training in tuning and choral balance.

Two pieces by Daniel Gawthrop gave the students a chance to engage in beautiful a capella singing, as they produced lovely tones and phrasing.

The complicated rhythms and meter of “Tomorrow Shall Be My Dancing Day,” By John Gardner, demonstrated not only the singers’ skills, but also that of director and accompanist.

The chorale thrilled and entertained the audience with the lively “Swinging With the Saints,” arranged by Mark Hayes, and ended the concert with Buryl Red’s a capella arrangement of “America,” which was produced in a “surround sound” manner as the students gathered in various spots in the sanctuary.

The chorale’s director, Rice, brings a prestigious name in music to Brookhaven. He holds a degree in Music Education from Auburn University and a master’s in Vocal Performance from Florida State University.

Rice, acclaimed for “exceptional dramatic power and complete command of his voice,” has distinguished himself as a performer with orchestras and opera and theater companies in America and abroad.

Solo appearances include those with Greater Miami Opera, New Orleans Opera, Mississippi Opera, Nevada Opera Theater, AIMS Opera, Louisiana Philharmonic Orchestra, Mississippi Symphony, Nevada Symphony and America Hawaii Cruises.

Notable performances include Escamillo opposite Denyce Graves as Carmen and Plonius opposite Sherill Milnes as Hamlet, as well as his European debut as Count Almaviva in Mozart’s “Marriage of Figaro.”

Rice was the baritone soloist for a performance of “Memorial,” by Rene Clausen, at Carnegie Hall. He has performed frequently as a soloist on MPR’s Mississippi Concert Hall and has created roles in contemporary operas by Richard Wargo and Luigi Zaninelli.

The chorale’s accompanist, Steve Russell, brought his usual technical skill, sensitive attention to balance and support, and uncommon knowledge and perhaps innate sense of musical style to Wednesday’s program. He accompanied effectively and beautifully on both the organ and piano, while never over balancing the young soloists or the chorus.

Russell is a graduate of Mississippi College and is the recipient of the Nelson Piano Award.

He studied piano with Dr. Ralph Taylor and organ with Billy Trotter.

Her serves as organist/pianist at First United Methodist Church in Brookhaven, accompanies choirs at Copiah-Lincoln Community College and Mississippi School of the Arts, and accompanies vocal students at Mississippi College.

In addition to accompanying and teaching piano students, Russell, is always in demand as a soloist, graciously giving recitals for clubs and organizations.

Before the concert, Matinee Musicale members and guests enjoyed a lovely reception hosted by members Mrs. Jim C. Barnett, Mrs. Hunter Kergosien, Mrs. Robert E. Jones and Mrs. Ben Spearman.

While enjoying the delicious refreshments, members and guests talked of their pride in and support for the school. Beautiful flowers and plants decorated the table, and festive blue and white balloons helped all join in “Celebration for the Mississippi School of the Arts.”