Jubilant Sykes & Christopher Parkening: Greensleeves
Tuesday, December 12, 2006 at 08:54AM
Stephen Brookes

December 11, 2006
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The Washington Post 12/11/06:  December again, and ‘tis the season to be engulfed in carols, wall-to-wall “Messiah”s, and Bing Crosby crooning “White Christmas” every time you walk into a Starbucks. But once in a while there’s a concert that breaks out of the Christmas-as-usual mold and brings a fresh and personal approach to the old favorites -- as guitarist Christopher Parkening and baritone Jubilant Sykes showed at George Mason’s Center for the Arts on Friday night.

jubilantsykes.jpgSykes is a distinctive (and wonderfully un-categorizable) singer by any standard. His voice is rich and beautifully controlled, with a molten bottom and a shimmering top, and his articulation is razor-sharp even when zipping along in Portuguese.  But it was the detailed color and subtlety that he brought to the program that really impressed. From a delicate “Away in a Manger” to Valdeman Henrique’s laugh-out-loud “Boi Bumba” (in which the Three Wise Men argue about who has more rhythm), Sykes never overdid a single note. Instead, he always seemed to be thoughtfully exploring the music – and finding hidden depths everywhere he looked.

Christopher Parkening is one of the acknowledged gods of the classical guitar world, with an extraordinary technique and elegant touch. And as he showed on Friday, he’s also a fine and intuitive accompanist.  The interplay between the performers was a pleasure to hear, especially in traditional songs like “Simple Gifts” and “Go Tell it on the Mountain.” But Parkening never quite matched Syke’s engaging naturalness and charm, and his solo pieces merely glittered, rarely evoking much poetry. Carlo Domeniconi’s dark, beautifully mysterious “Koyunbaba (The Shepherd)”  was a particular disappointment, a bland interpretation redeemed only by spectacularly virtuosic finger-work in the Presto movement. (Photo credit Terrance McCarthy)

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