Chorale program strikes
By Howard Tuvelle
SPECIAL TO THE NEWS-TIMES
The award winning Connecticut Master Chorale
gave a program of rather festive seasonal music. It was sung to a
capacity-plus audience on Sunday at Saint Mary’s Church in Bethel.
The Chorale, founded four years ago by its director, Tina Johns
Heidrich, has recently been chosen to sing in the White House this
Christmas. In its brief existence it has sung in Carnegie Hall and twice
been the winner of MacDonald’s “Gospelfest Competition.” Impressive
credentials! And let it be known that Heidrich is a music graduate of
Western Connecticut State University.
Throughout the entire program the Chorale was accompanied by the
skillful pianist Joseph Jacovino, Jr., and also by a brass ensemble. In
certain works a flute, clarinet, or bass guitar also participated.
Unfortunately some of the names of these musicians were omitted from the
The Chorale sang in the sanctuary’s large alcove behind the altar. As a
result the sound of the instruments, which were in front of the singers,
reached the listeners more immediately than that of the voices. Also, the
piano, with its stringy and metallic sound, seemed overly amplified and
often intruded upon the Chorale’s fine pianissimos and altogether sensitive
The opening selection was a celebration of Thanksgiving, “Creatures of
our God and King,” by Mark Hayes. During the first half of the program one
heard such familiar holiday melodies as “Silent Night,” “Away in the
Manger,” “Hark the Herald Angels Sing” and “O Little Town of Bethlehem,”
all interwoven in various selections by generally unfamiliar composers or
Special notice must be given to “Gloria,” a contemporary sacred
three-movement work by the English composer John Rutter. This original
score proved to be the chief musical entrée of the day. The lovely second
movement, “Domine Deus,” was sung with an almost devout reverence that cast
a spell on the audience.
“Gloria,” with its concluding brass fanfare and vocal brilliance,
displayed the artistry for which the Chorale has become known.
Of the many pieces superbly sung with instrumental accompaniment, it is
notable that the spiritual “Goin’ To Bethlehem,” sung a cappella, received
the most enthusiastic and loudest applause.
Throughout the program, Heidrich led the group with an economy of
conducting motions and the singers responded with equal precision.
The program had its international flavor as well, with selections like
“Gesu Bambino,” “Thula S’Thandwa” (a Zulu Lullaby), “Hanukkah Nagilah,” and
“Cantar,” (performed with a Cuban Salsa beat). The finale was Heidrich’s
own arrangement of the rousing “Amen,” moving up the musical scale to a
bursting and climatic final ending — well, not quite. As I was leaving it
was being repeated with the audience clapping to the rhythms. Finally the
musicians were given a shouting and standing ovation.
Congratulations are certainly due to the Chorale and its director, and
good luck in the White House.