The prevailing musical tone Sunday afternoon at Covenant Presbyterian Church in Westchester was of almost pops buoyancy and verve. But there was certainly a serious side to the agenda, as Vox Femina Los Angeles closed its fourth season with the West Coast premiere of Diane Benjamin's "Where I Live," a moving choral song cycle dealing with the experience of cancer.
Commissioned by the Denver Women's Chorus and premiered a year ago, "Where I Live" alternates simple strophic songs with narrations from a variety of sources, here spoken eloquently by six cancer survivors or relatives of survivors. There is much cleareyed aspiration in the music, darkening beyond irony in the fiercely iterative "My Body."
Conducted by founder Iris S. Levine, the 27-voice choir sang it with dramatic assurance and vocal poise, in a nicely shaded performance benefiting Wendy's Hope, a support group for lesbians with cancer. A string quintet, piano and percussion provided spare, evocative accompaniment, and five capable soloists emerged from the chorus.
Post-intermission, the choir's bright, balanced sound was heard to fine effect in more choral songs, with Benjamin's rhythmically bopping "You Get Proud by Practicing," Karen Hart's madrigal-esque "Totally Exposed" and the Wyrd Sisters' tautly marching "Warrior Song" most distinguished.
The final group, including anthemic songs by Holly Near and Margie Adam, and Sue Fink's powerful gospel-tinged "Trouble," moved overtly to the pop side, with bassist Denise Briese and drummer Megan Foley joining pianist Lisa Edwards in the supporting combo, and more strong soloists coming from the choir.
* Vox Femina Los Angeles repeats this program June 23, Zipper Concert Hall, Colburn School, 200 S. Grand Ave., downtown L.A. $15-$18, (310) 838-8151.