Louisville Chorus P.D.Q. Bach Celebration

By Bob Bahr

The Bomhard Theater in the Kentucky Center for the Arts was the site of some serious fooling around April Fool's Day. On a beautiful Sunday afternoon, a nearly full crowd of music lovers, fun lovers and misguided arts patrons were subjected to slapstick antics and lovely vocals by the Louisville Chorus, the local choral group noted for its accomplished candlelight Christmas performances and more serious musical projects.

In the spirit of P.D.Q. Bach, a twisted trio of classical music arrangers and performers, the Chorus bounded through ten adaptations of celebrated and not-so-celebrated poems, spicing their polished performances with undiluted silliness. Vintage silliness. Silliness like '50s do-wop flourishes to hearty choral sweeps, exaggerated blue-cheeked notes held interminably, and sounds one can only get from properly tuned and filled soda pop bottles.

It wasn't hard to see the skill behind the satire. But who was looking? The audience was having much too good a time to take anything seriously. Catcalls, misguided claps, insults (some of which originated from performers disguised as patrons), and a wonderfully discordant party horn chorus made the Louisville Chorus's P.D.Q. Bach Celebration a triumph of audience participation. In fact, the highlight of the afternoon may very well have been the party horn insult to the "Blue Danube Waltz" that the audience spontaneously crafted during the intermission (when there was nary a performer on stage!).

The first set covered vocal interpretations of poetic gems such as "To His Coy Mistress" (Andrew Marvell), "Song to Celia" (Ben Jonson), and "The Constant Lover" (Sir John Suckling) and a wonderful performance of "Why So Pale and Wan, Fond Lover" (Sir John Suckling) featuring elegant cha-cha footwork from the soloists. The intermission brought the Blue Danube Massacre, and on hearing this racket, the performers backstage must have doubted the wisdom of equipping this motley group with noisemakers.

But the venerable Wayne Perkey restored order to the proceedings and introduced the second half of the performance, a tasty medley of tunes extolling the virtues and peculiar abilities of various herbs and spices aptly called "The Seasonings." In particular, "Tarragon of virtue is full" and "Summer is a cumin seed" gave food for pleasure to both ears and mind. And oh, the depths of happiness and despair! During the epical "By the leeks of Babylon/There we sat down, yes, we wept," who could not feel sympathy for the biggest-hearted tenor who bawled for the cut onion?

"The Seasonings" ended with a tour-de-force called "To curry favor, favor curry," a truly entertaining and charming song packing considerable choral punch punctuated by imposing timpani drums. The "Curry" finale was as breathtaking as it was light-hearted, drawing thunder and inspiration from the Hallelujah Chorus, capped with a colorful 2100-balloon salute.