News Times Live - Danbury, CT

News Times Live
Mar 16 2007 4:15 AM
Master Chorale gives a gem of a performance

NEWTOWN -- The Connecticut Master Chorale has certainly become one of the musical treasures in the area that we have been enjoying for the last seven years. Music Director and Conductor Tina Johns Heidrich has a gift for selecting complex but entertaining material for her high caliber group that results in some adventures in good listening.

Their Winter Concert at St. Rose of Lima Church last Sunday afternoon was a powerful demonstration of her skill in harnessing the combined talent of vocalists and musicians in a crowd-pleasing program.

"Requiem" by Karl Jenkins (b. 1944) was a melodic and spiritual fusion of song and sound that could lift you into another wondrous dimension. Jenkins integrated several Japanese haiku poems with liturgical text set to a multitude of musical styles, resulting in an amazing journey. Heidrich, the Chorale, and everyone in the church seemed to enjoy the voyage.

The opening "Introit" was a beautiful hymn, creating an appropriate sense of solemnity for mourning, while giving some comfort to the living. In the driving "Dies Irae," with its forceful thrusts of rocketing rhythm, the soul of the departed was propelled out of the stratosphere, heading for judgment day. With voices and tempo soaring, this was no ordinary Requiem.

The haiku "The snow of yesterday" created a dramatic contrast with its serene and delicate vocals, as if we were being welcomed at the Pearly Gates, and were about to get a tour. The first stop, "Rex Tremendae," was a thunderous meeting with God, and had a strong a cappella section. The blending of the voices throughout the emotionally charged passages was superb. The last stop, "In Paradisum," was a playful stroll around cloud nine, complete with harp.

The CMC Orchestra provided a well-balanced accompaniment for the Chorale, with all of the different styles in Jenkins' composition that had unusual ethereal tonalities, Oriental flavors, clockwork pulsations, and a touch of minimalism. It was quite a mixed bag.

After intermission, Heidrich thanked Joanne Morrow of WMNR-FM (88.1) radio for broadcasting the piece, inspiring her to perform it with the CMC. The station has been doing a fine job in the fine arts for as long as I can remember. In fact it is celebrating its 25th anniversary this year.

Some of Jenkins' work is undoubtedly familiar to TV viewers, from the commercial success he's enjoyed with many advertisements. The CMC Orchestra played his "Diamond Music" with color and clarity. The Chorale was all smiles singing the Delta Airline theme "Adiemus." It had a Caribbean bounce, with May Steinberg sounding cool on her recorder.

Pieces like this have a nice way of working their way into your head, making you want to hear more. Fortunately, most CMC concerts are recorded, and hopefully the CD from this performance will be available in the near future.

"The One Hundredth Psalm Tune," as arranged by Ralph Vaughn Williams (1872 "" 1958), featured Joseph Jacovino, Jr. on organ. They filled the tabernacle with a majestic version of the regal Old English hymn.

"Bless Ye the Lord (Benedicite)" by Vaughn Williams was full of vim and vigor with crashing cymbals, and the CMC plunging into an ocean of music, creating some waves. The frequent shifts in key signatures created an interesting sense of tonal variety. Soprano soloist Louise Fauteux had a clear and pleasant voice that rose above the Chorale and Orchestra, somehow able to sing both with and apart from all of them.


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