William Ferris Chorale | Theater Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader

William Ferris Chorale 

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Lee Hoiby is probably best known to local audiences for the Chicago Opera Theater's 1980 production of his sultry adaptation of the Tennessee Williams play Summer and Smoke. An inventive traditionalist, Hoiby has worked out a pleasing lyrical style derived from Puccini verism by way of Samuel Barber, Ned Rorem, and Giancarlo Menotti (who was his tacher). Much of his music--be it operatic, choral, or chamber--is emotional, evocative, and thoroughly accessible. In particular, he's got a remarkable ear for the expressive beauty of English--not surprisingly, Leontyne Price and other American divas have requested songs from him over the years. Hoiby turns 65 this month, and appropriately he's being given a large-scale tribute by the William Ferris Chorale, an organization whose Anglophilic (and occasionally Francophilic) leader is a kindred musical conservative. Included in this birthday salute are: a masque and selected arias from his opera The Tempest (1985); "Songs of the Fool" from the 1957 opera Twelfth Night (the first time it's been performed here); a recently completed oboe quartet titled Overture: To a Song; and assorted works for chorus. This being a William Ferris affair, the organ plays a prominent part: A Rock Valley Narrative (1989) will be performed by Thomas Wiesflog, one of the city's best and most irrepressible keyboard virtuosi. Among the other showcased celebrants are tenor John Vorrasi, oboist Judy Lewis, and soloists from Ferris's sincere-sounding, well-schooled chorus. Hoiby himself will be on hand to accompany on the piano. Tonight, 8 PM, Our Lady of Mount Carmel Church, 690 W. Blemont; 922-2070.

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