Concert Review: Vocal Ensemble, Room Full of Teeth, Presented by Candlelight Concert Society

Room full of teeth, vocal ensemble.
Photo courtesy of Candlelight Concert Society.

The Grammy-winning vocal ensemble, “Room Full of Teeth,” presented by the Candlelight Concert Society, performed beautifully at the Smith Theater at Howard Community College’s Horowitz Visual and Performing Arts Center on Saturday, April 9.

Room Full of Teeth’s performance is a unique experience that CCS audiences expect. The group uses their voices as instruments. There is no band, orchestra, piano or even rhythm instrument. Instead, Kathryn Radakovich, Katy Avery, Mingljia Chen, Virginia Kelsey, Steven Bradshaw, Thann Scoggin, Thomas McCargar and Cameron Beauchamp, who span five octaves, use their wonderfully resonant voices to captivate the listener. Sometimes they sing actual lyrics, but the soloist is backed up by the other band members who substitute for the traditional instruments.

Nobody can say that the sounds coming out of the stage are not those of very talented singers. Sometimes listening to them is like listening to a lullaby in a foreign language. You don’t really hear the words or understand them, but you still appreciate the soothing sounds.

Room Full of Teeth’s performance is a unique experience that CCS audiences expect.

That’s not to say all the numbers were quiet. Some reflected the sounds of the street, like “Montmarte” by Judd Greenstein. Another piece was Greenstein’s “Run Away” which is poetry sung with the other band members providing the musical accompaniment.

“IV. I’m happy (reprise)”, one of his longest “word-torn pieces”, reflects his Korean origin. “Vesper Sparrow” by Miss Mazzoli reflects “the song of birds with Sardinian accents”. The most relaxing was “Render” by Brad Wells which he wrote in a cottage in Vermont. It was a perfectly peaceful reflection of nature.

The centerpiece of the evening was “Partita for 8 Voices” by band member Carolne Shaw. Like most pieces, this masterpiece was written for Roomful of Teeth. The selection won a Grammy for Best Contemporary Classical Composition and received the 2013 Pulitzer Prize for Music. Shaw was the youngest composer to win this award.

There is an inscription on the sheet music. “’Partita’ is a simple piece. Born from a love of surface and structure, the human voice, dancing and tired ligaments, music and our basic desire to draw a line from point to point. The piece has five movements to the sounds of square dancing, folk hymns and Inuit sounds. It was a dessert for the ears.

Roomful of Teeth is going overseas but will soon be back in the US. If they show up in your area, I recommend seeing them play, especially if you like classical and experimental music.

Duration: 1h30 with an intermission.

Room Full of Teeth performed April 9, 2022 at Candlelight Concert Society, Smith Theater, Horowitz Visual and Performing Arts Center at Howard Community College, Campus Dr, Columbia, MD 21044.

The Cuarteto Latinoamericano will perform on Saturday, April 23, 2022 and the American String Quartet with composer and pianist Octavio Vazquez on Sunday, May 22, 2022. For those who were scheduled to see Dénes Vájon, Piano last month, this concert will now take place on Wednesday June 1, 2022. All concerts are at the Smith Theatre. For tickets to these concerts, go to this link.

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About Roy B. Westling

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