Assistant Professor of Music Steven Paul Spears gave a recital of works by different composers all written on the similar theme of spirituality Saturday, Jan. 19.The rich tenor voice of Spears painted an arresting picture of spirituality throughout the history of vocal music, from Henry Purcell in the 17th century to Benjamin Britten in the 20th. The recital took place in the Lawrence Memorial Chapel, which provided its usual heavenly acoustics.
Spears collaborated with other talented Conservatory members Joanne Bozeman, soprano; Kenneth Bozeman, piano; and Matthew Michelic on viola.
Also on the program were junior Christopher Besch, bass, Lawrence fellow Tad Hardin, piano, and Linda Sparks on piano. The group was a genuine musical tour de force.
Spears and Besch opened the program with a duet for tenor and bass voices by Purcell titled “Hosanna to the Highest.”
The blending of their voices was a treat for the ears, while the eyes observed the physical contrast between the two singers: Besch, with his long, curly locks, towered visibly above Spears. Yet the equally matched voices intertwined in a way to offer the full beauty of the male voice.
George Frederic Handel’s “Alleluia” offered an impressive display of Spears’ technical skills. The music was filled with coloratura, quick little runs sung in one breath.
It was as though Spears’ voice had mounted a roller coaster and the audience was hearing the ride, without the nauseating effect of an actual coaster.
In Britten’s “Canticle II: Abraham and Isaac,” Spears joined forces with Joanne and Kenneth Bozeman for the most striking selection on the program. The piano accompaniment was the thread that held together the dissonant tenor and soprano voices.
In the opening and closing sections, the word “Abraham” was sung in such sweet dissonance that I found myself a bit sad each time it resolved to a beautiful major chord.
Associate Professor of Music Bonnie Koestner found it interesting that Britten used both male and female voices for God in “Canticle II.” Regarding the male voice in the pair, she commented, “[Spears is] such an expressive singer — he really draws the audience.”
Junior Andrew Penning, a tenor, agreed with Koestner. He admired Spears’ “expression and vocal agility, especially in the upper registers,” and went on to praise the tenor’s voice as “pure, free, and beautiful.”
The first half of the program concluded with “Four Hymns” by the English composer Ralph Vaughan Williams. Michelic joined Spears and K. Bozeman for the piece written for tenor, viola, and piano. Michelic’s deep, sonorous tone provided a beautiful contrast to Spears’ bright voice.
The large chapel stage was a perfect setting for a recital “On Spiritual Thought.” The organ shined behind the piano and the performers, intensifying the effect of the music. In the words of Spears himself, it is “good stuff.