• Andrew Lipian

Lynch's Spellbinding Performance Reunites Elyria

This was not your ordinary choir concert, nor was it the standard recital-series solo performance. This was a homecoming; a reunion every bit as sweet as the notes christening its occasion, and a hall every bit as full as the hearts singing in it. Lester Lynch returned home to Elyria High, his Alma Mater, and rendered a jaw-droppingly elegant performance that left his hometown audience spellbound. His appearances were punctuated by the full constellation of Elyria High School’s Choral program, with soloists like Jeffery Glass-Galmarini, Zaid Nimer, Mia Congress, and Arianna Caraballo flickering in the firmament. And though the lion’s share of the star power on stage hailed from Lynch – and he wielded it commandingly – Thursday night’s performance was a master class in making a wave in the world, and bringing one’s hometown together to surf on it.

The waves came, and they broke; one shattering crash of applause after another – and for good cause. Lynch demonstrated every bit of what a world-class performer looks and sounds like on stage. With wholesome tones, his silky legato passages melded like quicksilver into effortlessly soft pianissimos. Lynch sang as if reaching out into the audience, and everyone listening learned to trust that – no matter how delicate the passage – Lynch would always finish with a smooth landing.

He opened with “Sebben Crudele,” a mainstay from the book of 24 Italian Arias, which many voice teachers introduce to their students. Declaring it the last song he sang while a student at EHS, he reflected how he’d then performed it for the Lorain County Solo & Ensemble Contest which, he noted, begins this Saturday. Later, he presented a piece from The Phantom of the Opera for an old friend, honored his Mother – seated near the stage – with “Songs My Mother Taught Me,” by Ives, and his Aunt Betty with “Every Time I Feel The Spirit.” As he sang, his expressions often waxed sentimental, lingering on each phrase as if to reflect on fond memories from student days.

Lynch also tackled the dark, menacing world of Wagner with Wotan’s “Farewell,” from Der Ring Des Nibelungen – a truly mighty undertaking for a recital. The lighting effects and Lynch’s signature gravitas left the audience transported into a staged production of the Opera at La Scala, in Italy, or some of the various other venues Lynch has graced. Other high points of the evening featured the EHS Choir, with songs like “Go Down Moses,” or the evening’s encore “Look At Your Life Through Heaven’s Eyes,” eliciting standing ovations.

Several community luminaries in the packed audience at the EHS Performing Arts Center praised Lynch for his dramatic return. City Councilman Marcus Madison was in attendance, marveling how “you can start here, and you can trailblaze forward…in the next 40 years, I hope…young people here today come back…[are] performing and saying ‘this was the moment I knew…to take my talent across the world.’” Newly minted Mayor, Frank Whitfield, even delivered an official proclamation to Lynch on behalf of a grateful City of Elyria. Whitfield said it was “an honor to have someone world-renowned from our city…who came back,” and that “he’s a living example of what we’re hoping others do: people coming home, giving back…getting youth involved and inspired – this is just the beginning.”

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