NEWTOWN -- Brass fanfare and a majestic choir heralded the opening of the Connecticut Master Chorale's 10th Anniversary Concert on Saturday night at St. Rose of Lima Church.
Music director and conductor Tina Johns Heidrich and the members of the chorale have been preparing for many months, or should I say years, for this event.
Heidrich found it hard to believe it's been 10 years, and yes, she's still wearing her good luck dress. (Just fitting into the same dress as a decade ago is an accomplishment.)
Heidrich had her hands full, harvesting music from the hundreds of pieces the group perfected, and getting tons of suggestions from an ever-expanding audience.
Much of the material ultimately mined for the program was feel-good and familiar.
Some pieces provided a new spin to listeners' ears, like Handel's "Hallelujah! Amen!" from "Judas Maccabaeus" (not the one from "Messiah"). Angelic voices took everyone to another part of paradise, something that happens regularly at the chorale concerts.
It was no surprise Heidrich turned to some of her favorite composers, John Rutter and Karl Jenkins. Some of the jitters from all the excitement were evident in the opening of Rutter's "For the Beauty of the Earth."
But most members of the chorale have been with Heidrich for many years and know exactly how to deliver a polished performance, wherever she may lead them.
Jenkins' music has become well known for its use in TV ads, and the
orchestra gave a sparkling rendition of the DeBeers Diamond commercial. Soprano May Steinberg played an uplifting recorder in "Adiemus," used by Delta Airlines.
The orchestra has a member who has been with it from before the beginning, pianist Joseph Jacovino Jr., who provided solid accompaniment.
Jacovino and the chorale were so engaging in Celine Dion's Academy-Award winning "The Prayer" that the audience couldn't wait for the end to burst into applause.
Steel drummer Murray Mast, back by popular demand, had a few folks dancing to "Santo" from Glenn McClure's "Caribbean Mass."
With strong ethnic flavor, the bass and tenor sections sounded stern in "Volga Boat Song." Heidrich's arrangement of the Russian folk tune "Kalinka (Snowball Tree)" had everyone clapping rhythmically.
The chorale has done well with music from operas and show tunes and movie sound tracks. The powerful triumphal scene from Verdi's "Aida" had exotica galore. I loved "Sanctus" from "Missa Luba," used in the movie "If."
The group closed with parts of two John Williams film scores, "Amistad" and "Star Wars -- The Phantom Menace," beautifully done, redone, and done yet again.
But the chorale wasn't finished yet. For an encore, members did a medley of variations on "When the Saints Go Marchin' In."