Greenville Chorale tackles 200 years of American standards

Pieces of the Pie

The Greenville Chorale 2017-2018 season includes a variety of old and new works | photo provided

The Greenville Chorale is going all-American with its latest show. Titled “A Slice of American Pie,” the program will feature American standards and favorites. Conductor Bingham Vick says he deliberately planned this program to represent the best parts of America. “During this time of political unrest, it’s something possibly we all can agree upon,” Vick says.

The program includes old favorites, newer pieces, and show tunes Vick says are more upbeat and seldom done in the chorale’s regular concerts.

“America is the newest kid on the block at only 200 years old,” Vick says, referring to Europe’s musical tradition, often viewed as the gold standard. “American composers are the beneficiaries of a lot of music history and influence.”

The sections of the program are designed to ease listeners in, using more lyrical tunes initially and gradually working into more raucous pieces.

Opening the program is a setting of “America (My Country, ‘Tis of Thee)” by Robert Edgerton, while the second set begins with arrangements of forgotten folksongs by Greenville-based composer Dan Forrest inspired by the different regions of our nation. The orchestration calls for four hands on one piano (or two pianos) and violin as well as some portions unaccompanied.

Vick describes these as more laid back, legato in feeling, and introverted, while the second half of the set — choral works by Aaron Copland — is more forward, in your face, and aggressive. Recognizable tunes from this section will likely be the majestic “Simple Gifts” (a Shaker song for women) and the foot-stomping “Ching-A-Ring-Chaw.”

The program progresses to a series of hymn-tunes, spirituals, and a gospel song, including “The Road Home” (from 1835’s Southern Harmony), “What Wondrous Love Is This” (from the 1811’s Sacred Harp), the spirituals “Deep River” and “God’s Gonna Set This World on Fire,” and contemporary gospel composer Keith Hampton’s “True Light.”

The early gospel hymns come from European immigrants while spirituals, of course, come from African slaves, but they have been adapted to represent American music as a whole.

“Slaves brought their own sound,” Vick says. “They set the stage for American jazz, which is a unique American musical form.”

The fourth set features barbershop harmony. “God’s Bottles,” a Prohibition period song Vick describes as “very self-righteous,” will be performed by the women of the chorale, and “Lida Rose” will be sung by the men.

Lastly, in a set called The Great American Songbook, Broadway tunes will be featured.

“The old operatic tradition moved into a popular style,” Vick says, describing the development of the Broadway show.

The set will include Rodgers and Hammerstein’s “You’ll Never Walk Alone” (from “Carousel”), “Georgia On My Mind” by Hoagy Carmichael, “Someone to Watch Over Me” by George and Ira Gershwin, and “Blue Skies” by Irving Berlin.

The concert will close with Berlin’s “God Bless America.”

“Everybody will enjoy the program,” Vick says. “There’s nothing too intellectually demanding. People can relax a little bit.”

“A Slice of American Pie”

April 23, 3 p.m., First Baptist Church, Greenville
April 30, 3 p.m., Taylors First Baptist Church
Tickets: $30 adult, $15 student
Peace Center Box Office // 864-467-3000



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