John Aler at Willett Hall, April 4, 2003
When a friend asked about John Aler's recital I replied
"Like a Cadillac on cruise control." Aler's lyric tenor voice, produced without apparent
effort, moved through a varied program of songs with a sweet gentleness. His accompanist
Dennis Helmrich was an equal partner, both alert and sensitive to the vocalist.
Lee Tepley, in his insightful Virginian-Pilot review
states it accurately: "His expression was based on clear presentation of the texts, in
phrases that were carefully shaped with dynamic highs and lows, all sounding quite natural."
Mr. Aler opened the program with selections from Handel's oratorio
Jephtha and later sang two selections from Mendelssohn's Elija, including
the beautiful tenor solo If With All Your Hearts, an expression of deep devotion
A set of German songs included Beethoven's Der Kuss and
Adelaide and three selections from Schubert's cycle Die Schöne Müllerin.
His natural, effortless singing in Wohin?, Danksagung an den Bach and
Ungeduld was capped by the passionate intensity of the final phrase "Yours is my
heart and shall be ever."
The French set included Camille Saint-Saens' Le Bonheur
est légère (Happiness is a frail thing), Reynaldo Hahn's Fêtes Galantes - a
most charming song that I found far too short - and Georges Bizet's Ouvre ton coeur, with its
wonderfully complex Spanish-flavored piano accompaniment. All were sung with liquid, glowing tone.
Both halves of the concert were closed by songs from Aler's
CD Songs We Forgot to Remember. Many of these so-called parlor songs were conceived of as art songs
but once popularized were sung by more generic voices. Others started out as vaudeville ballads
and once they became popular became standards for the recital stage. My Lovely Celia by
George Munro (1680-1731) is the oldest done in a later arrangement by H. Lane Wilson.
Annabell Lee is a poem by Edgar Allan Poe set by Henry Leslie, and Idabell Firestone's
song If I Could Tell You (words by Madeleine Marshall) was the theme song of an
early popular television program The Voice of Firestone. This song, accompanied
by orchestra was sung each week by the guest artist, which included such vocal luminaries
as Kirsten Flagstad , Dorothy Kirsten and Helen Traubel.
With clear diction the program closed with Eric Coates' Bird Songs
at Eventide. The Last Chord by Arthur Sullivan of Gilbert and ... and Until
by Wilfrid Sanderson. It was all great fun.
John Aler's mother came to hear her son
perform. Rosa Aler is an Italian-American and makes her home in Baltimore. A most gracious
and lovely lady, she was the guest of our friend Shirley Thompson who has spent a lifetime of singing,
teaching and promoting high quality music. She and Mrs. Aler became friends while
Ms. Thompson was running the opera workshop at Towson State University in Baltimore.
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