Saturday, December 29, 2018

Lakewood Sings--The Choirs of Lakewood High School (Lakewood, Ohio), 1961

I was about to make this into a zip, then I noticed I'd marked the "Ezekiel" track as "Ezekia."  Had to fix that, then re-export the tracks, which is no big deal, but there's always some tiny error that happens.  How to account for these things?  I know--I typed the wrong letters.  That explains it.

I don't remember when or where this showed up.  Well, it was in Ohio, anyway--I haven't been outside of the state in forever.  Lakewood, Ohio, is metro Cleveland, if I'm using that term correctly.  The liner notes to this LP--the type that randomly capitalizes things--tells us that "the Choir has appeared on National Television and Radio Programs, and has consistently received superior ratings in the Ohio State Competitions."  The choir directors are T.R. Evans and Ulah Gilmore.

The choirs are very, very good.  So, what do you do when you're blessed with gifted high school singers?  You push them past their skill level.  You overtax them, because showing student vocalists in a bad light is some kind of tradition, I guess.  It's beyond me.  With choral music, showiness is the often the  rule, "showiness" being a synonym for reaching too high.  And for tossing taste aside.  Keep things fast, busy, "different."  When everyone is trying to be "different," "different" becomes "same."  That never occurs to some folks.

So, the choirs--senior and junior--sound great in spots, not so great in others.  The male sections in high school choirs often sound weak in unison sections, possibly because fewer males volunteer for choirs, and because the male voice, being lower and louder, isn't as easy to control.  Just a guess from a non-choral expert.  Anyway, Praise to the Lord is a hymn that moves along just fine without the over-arrangement it receives here, one which pushes the senior choir to levels it can't achieve, and ditto for Now Thank We All Our God.  Why take unusually good high school singers and aim too high?  It's like, "You guys are great, so let's give you stuff that would tax pros.  Just as our way of saying thanks."

A disservice to the singers, in my opinion.  They're terrific.  Of the fine tracks that work well, there's the opening one and an amazingly good Carol of the Bells, which almost erases the awful memories of the Trans-Siberian Orchestra's idiot-festival version (I was stuck with that thing blasting into my ears while looking through a box of Goodwill LPs, and I actually said out loud, "Does this thing end?").  Also, Carol of the Drum gets just the right treatment, and I'm pleased to see the proper title and credit, even three years after the song was stolen, retitled, and recredited, reminding us that copyright law is a joke.

I want to give this a rave review--the singers are wonderful.  The material, except for the spiritual (there's nothing that works less well, in choral terms, than white school and church choirs singing such material), is well chosen.  Recording quality is fine.  But a number of the arrangements are far better suited to, say, John McCarthy's singers.  Why did the adults do this to these highly talented teens?

Click here to hear: Lakewood Sings--The Choirs of Lakewood High School, 1961

Now Is the Caroling Season
Jesus, Jesus, Rest Your Head
A Spotless Rose
Carol of the Bells
Carol of the Drum

O Come, All Ye Faithful
The Lord Bless You and Keep You

Praise We Sing to Thee
Let Thy Holy Purpose

The Lord Is My Shepherd
Praise to the Lord
Now Thank We All Our God
Ezekiel Saw De Wheel
Lakewood High, We're Proud of You

Lakewood Sings--The Choirs of Lakewood High School, Lakewood OH (Delta Records of Ohio; Pressed by Columbia Record Productions XCTV-82122/23; 1961)



Buster said...

Lakewood is an inner-ring suburb of Cleveland. I lived there for a number of years. The sculpture in the cover photo, above the doors of the auditorium, is "Early Settler" by local artist Viktor Schrekengost, but is generally called Johnny Appleseed. It's quite striking in person.

I can't explain why choral directors overtax their charges, but T.R. Evans does seem to be full of himself, judging by the notes on the cover.

Ernie said...

I must have missed this one when you posted it, sorry. I'll give it a good listen now. :)

Kwork said...

Thank you Lee.