Lots of volume by choir and Big Band
de Gelderlander, June 18, 1992

Almost 70 choir-members on stage together with an extended big band. The audience formed a minority at the performance of the Crea Big Band at the Amsterdam University Choir. Both companies reside at the Amsterdam university. No professionals, but students that spend their free time to music.

Jazz musician Armando Cairo (leader of the big band) and choir leader Anthony Sielhorst were the initiators of the joint performance. “What is more obvious than the combination of a big band and a classical choir”, Armando Cairo states jokingly. “For us it was the challenge to integrate the tone-coloring of the two ensembles”. Composer Mariëtte Harinck was given the assignment to compose the music for this occasion. She already did something similar before for a choir and her own jazz orchestra ‘De Grote Terts’. Her composition is titled ‘Ravel’ and the personality and work of this French composer was her starting-point. The (Dutch) lyrics sung by the choir, are based on Ravel’s letters.

Up to the intermission the choir unfortunately chose to play Ravel’s “Trois Chansons” from 1916, three pieces that – due to their virtuoso rhythm and the strict match of melody and counter-melody and the various voices ruthlessly demands a lot of the technique of the choir. Despite an excellent soprano-solo in “Trois beaux oiseaus du Paradis” the choir was not able to transfer the enchantment of these pieces.

After that it was the big band’s turn, with two numbers from the “standard” jazz-repertoire of Benny Golson and Duke Ellington. The gay way of playing of the enthusiastic ensemble was catchy and there were some beautiful solos, but the refinement in the finishing touch. The big band intermezzo was closed with a piece of Armando Cairo, nice suspense-jazz with which the musicians could live it up. A more successful choice of repertoire that that of the choir.

After the intermission it was time for the main course: “Ravel”, a piece in six parts arranged for choir and big band by Mariëtte Harinck. Despite the complexity it is an easy-listening piece that offers ample opportunities to the unusual cast and the non-professional musicians to show their capabilities. The choir is at full strength and therefore very audible, despite the not so subtle copper in the big band.
Ravel’s influence is especially clear in the link in between the parts, where the work up to other accord-series and rhythms in a refined atmosphere. The sound spectrum of the enormous group of musicians sometimes is impressive.

Less successful are the ponderous, down-to-earth Dutch lyrics that, in poetic sense are more similar to weather-reports than to the wrestle and loneliness of a tortured Ravel.

The CREA Big Band and the Amsterdam University Choir have two rehearsed for two months on this joint task. Due to the fact that on Tuesday we were present at only the second official performance, it can be called a successful project, in which the order-composition “Ravel” was the most convincing.