Several members of Bard’s Graduate School of Vocal Arts flocked together to present an evening of music and song. Entitled Music for Folks, a phrase from Pete Seeger, it was, to the delight of the audience, an evening of extended parlor room entertainment in The Sanctuary at Murray’s Café in Tivoli. The Sanctuary is a deconsecrated church with admirable acoustics on Tivoli’s main street, Broadway.
The program opened with sopranos Angela Hendryx and Natalie Trumm with tenor Eric Carey on harmonica and baritone Luke MacMillan on guitar in a tight-harmony rendition of Bob Dylan’s “The Times They Are A-Changin’.” This was a buoyant millennial version that declared renewed relevancy for the half-century old song that had announced a major demographic shift in the American political landscape.
The first half of the program featured songs about war from the American Civil War through World War I. Accompanied by Hannah Harnest (yes, they had to tune the piano before the performance) on piano they sang lyrics by Walt Whitman, A.E. Houseman, and Stephen Foster. As an ensemble, they were all furiously in sync with Foster’s “That’s What’s the Matter.”
As one might expect with such a program, everyone sang with greater ease and more subtle dynamics after intermission. The second half of the program focused on the sentiment of home and heritage. Eric Carey sang “Rambling Boys of Pleasure” and Benjamin Britten's arrangement of "Down By the Sally Gardens" with shaded nuance while accompanied by Scot Moore on fiddle. Angela Hendryx was superb with Goethe’s "Elfenlied" with Alexander Zemlinksy’s score. Hannah Harnest gave a vigorous and sensitive rendition of the opening Allegro to Piano Sonata No. 1 by Gideon Klein, which was composed and played by in a Nazi concentration camp just before the author’s extermination.
Baritone Luke MacMillan excelled in “Spring on the Prospect Road” by Kenneth Leslie while Natalie Trumm gave full volume and range to her voice in “O Sole Mio.” They concluded with an ensemble version of a traditional Irish pub closer, “The Parting Glass,” while they invited all to continue at the bar across the street.
The evening was a well-wrought blend of classically inflected folk songs that embraced a variety of mood and sentiment. Some songs were familiar, others were not; the pleasure of the familiar songs was to hear them sung with effortless aplomb, and when they sang in ensemble to savor the suave harmonic blend.
If you are looking for evening entertainment over the holiday season, you could not go wrong in calling the Bard Graduate School of Vocal Arts to ascertain the availability of these accomplished singers and musicians.