A crowd gathered in the main sanctuary at Newport Harbor Lutheran Church in Newport Beach Saturday night. Men donned in suits and women in colorful dresses created the feel of an evening service, but a quick glance to the altar revealed that something else was about to take place.
On cue with a nod, Scott Farthing, the director of choral and vocal studies at Saddleback College, led the Women’s Camerata with the graceful cheironomy of a seasoned conductor, through a set of 24 musical pieces invoking laughter, spiritually, innocence, and peace.
“I chose these songs since they are both vocally challenging, and are pieces that have been ignored,” said Farthing.
The Camerata began by singing “Aleluia Brasileira” by Ralph Emmanuel, which made for a pleasing contrast of rhythm and tone between the sopranos and altos.
The genre transitioned to classic gospel songs accompanied by Pennie Foster, a master pianist and part-time piano instructor at Saddleback. Foster was selected as the Part-time Professor of the Year in 2004, and nominated for Orange County’s Teacher of the Year in 2005.
Farthing then led the ensemble through the set, “Four Songs from Journey,” which was inspired by Farthing’s childhood experiences of growing up among a family of church singers in the Appalachians. Farthing described the feel of the songs as “earthy and raw,” and included well-known folk songs such as “Wayfaring Stranger” arranged by John M. Dye.
Concluding the concert were the songs “Sing Me to Heaven” by Jane Griner which Farthing described as “one of the best” lyrical pieces to date, and “Chili Con Carne” composed by Anders Edenroth, which refers to Farthing’s love of food and the art of cooking a “truly heavenly chili con carne.”
“I wanted to offer songs that the audience would like and could connect with,” Farthing said. “Especially if they have never attended a vocal concert before.”
The concert, which covered musical pieces with a wide range of vocal and music styles, provided the audience what could be considered a small slice of heaven on earth.