News at Five
AP News
Police Report
Access Magazine
Jill Magazine
The New Milford Spectrum
Thumbs Up/Down
Whaddya Say?
Email News
Mortgage Rates
Yellow Pages
Employment Opportunities
Today's News
CT Links


Home | Headlines | Classified | Subscriptions | Online Forum | Staff

Uplifting Concert by Connecticut Master Chorale

NEWTOWN Saturday's concert by the Connecticut Master Chorale, directed by its founder Tina Johns Heidrich, was an uplifting evening of music. The program was dedicated to the memory of Gilbert Fong (1940-2004), a generous and enthusiastic member of the Chorale since its 1999 beginning.

The chorus, which is always expected to sing with the finest of tone and blending, seemed to outdo itself in this concert in Saint Rose of Lima Church. The program consisted of two works in praise of God: Antonin Dvorak's "Te Deum," a 20-minute work, and Felix Mendelssohn's "Hymn of Praise," an hour-long work, also known as his Symphony No. 2.

Dvorak (1841-1904) and Mendelssohn (1809-1847) came from significantly different religious backgrounds: Dvorak was a devout Roman Catholic, while Mendelssohn's family converted from Judaism to Christianity. (Mendelssohn covered both traditions by writing the cantatas "Elijah" and "Saint Paul."

Dvorak's four-part "Te Deum" was commissioned for his visit to America in 1892 and in celebration of the 400th anniversary of the Columbus voyage to the New World.

This exuberant work begins with a pulsating timpani and a Baroque-like splendor in the orchestra; the chorus soon joins in their chant of praise. Soprano Louise Fauteux, with a full and golden voice, sang the quieter contrasting solo portion. Bass-baritone Brendan Cooke opened the second section, "Tu Rex gloriae," with boldness and firm tone.

The chorus, a bit subdued in the early portions, came alive in the "Aeterna fac," where each choral section in turn sang the gentle, swaying melody with great warmth. In the joyful conclusion, choral "Alleluias" punctuated the brashness of cymbals, trumpets, and timpani. It was a performance that captured the work's essence a devout composer's great faith in his god.

Heidrich can be expected to program the unusual in choral works. This time she chose Mendelssohn's "Hymn of Praise" (1840), labeled by the composer as a "symphonic cantata." This work also was commissioned to celebrate a 400th anniversary: the invention of the printing press. It is a work of brilliant choral, solo, and orchestral writing. One wonders why it is not performed more often.

A lengthy three-movement orchestral introduction precedes the entrance of the chorus and organ. Immediately, trombones announce a theme, not unlike a hunting call, which is used throughout the work. The orchestral writing is pure Mendelssohn, warm in its romantic glow. (Heidrich omitted one movement to save the energy of the chorus who had to stand during the lengthy prelude.) The second movement, waltz-like in the manner of Tchaikovsky, was deliciously delivered by the orchestra. The chorus then enters in a dramatic burst of German romanticism, singing praise on the notes of the trombone theme.

The "Hymn of Praise" is in ten segments. Mendelssohn chose Biblical passages not only for praise, but for life as a passage from darkness to light. As in all cantatas, chorus and soloist alternate for variety. Once again, soprano Louise Fauteux proved exceptional in strength and tone. Richard Slade evinced a well-rounded tenor voice, ever on pitch and never straining.

The Chorale sang the work in English and must be congratulated on the clarity of its projection of the words. One particularly effective portion has the tenor querying: "Watchman, will the night soon pass?" With the emotions of both tenor and orchestra increasing with each repeat of the question, the soprano then enters with a ringing, clarion call that summons the chorus to sing happily of the departing night. The work concludes with both trombones and chorus repeating the original theme, providing a glorious ending to the "Hymn of Praise."

Could any fault be found with the chorus and orchestra in this performance? Nothing that I can think of. The voices were never forced, always on the mark, and Heidrich's tempi seemed just right throughout. The 25-piece orchestra sounded double that size and performed admirably, as did organist Joseph Jacovino, Jr. It was about as good as any choral concert can get.


Division of Ottaway Newspapers,Inc.
333 Main St. Danbury, CT 06810 (203) 744-5100

The News-Times Online Edition is published daily Monday through Sunday.

All items copyright 2004 by The News-Times unless otherwise noted.

Sports Local News At Five Headlines Home