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Lifting voices

Choral conductor Paul Crabb’s teaching blends music and life

Paul Crabb

Story by Dale Smith | Photos by Rob Hill

Members of choral conductor Paul Crabb’s Summer Singers ensemble enter McKee Hall’s Room 204 by ones and twos, grab chairs and begin forming a circle on the old gym floor. They chat nonstop as college students are wont to do about friends, classes, whatnot. The collection of 30 or so undergraduate and graduate students soon fills out the shape with sections for baritones, tenors, altos and sopranos. Inside the circle, the accompanist puts a hip against the grand piano and rolls it slowly into position near Crabb’s podium. Meanwhile, he works the room, adding his voice and laughter to the ever-louder hum of vivacious conversation. The bonhomie is as palpable as a sleepy cat in your lap.

Soon the tone begins to fluctuate as Crabb paces the singers through a program of songs by Johannes Brahms. Crabb, who is locally famous for his fastidious preparations, had spent enough time to paint a house researching a set of songs to tell the story of the great composer’s love, loss and coming to terms. After poring over books and scores that illuminate Brahms’ musical and social life in 1800s Vienna, Austria, he decided to open the program with the lively and romantic “Liebeslieder Waltzes.”

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