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Arts diary: Festival coup with big chorus; Choral Arts Society of Washington Chester Cathedral.

Byline: Glyn Mn Hughes

WE'VE come to expect some quite serious singing at the Chester Summer Music Festival.

While choral singing tends to abound in festivals centred round cathedrals, few can have managed quite the coup the Chester organisers managed to pull off, in attracting one of the United States' premier choruses.

Fresh from their performance at the first night of The Proms in London, the Choral Arts Society of Washington came to a big welcome.

The opening piece, Bach's short Cantata No 118, demonstrated some excellent control, and was subtly supported by the wind section of the Manchester Camerata, conducted by the chorus's music director Norman Scriber. The high point had to be Bruckner's Mass No 2 in E minor, a spellbinding performance of great power.

There was a marvellous crescendo in the Kyrie while the Gloria often showed a magnificent contrast of piano and forte. The men might have been a little unstable in the Credo but that was a minor distraction in what was a great performance.

Add to that some moving arrangements of three spirituals and an amusing performance of Copland's Old American Songs and the ice was partly broken.

They also included a witty, full-blooded performance of Bernstein's Chichester Psalms, dispensing with the orchestra and using organ. Though played manfully by Graham Eccles, it did not work so well. Treble soloist James Andrews, however, displayed excellent control.There was also a performance of Barber's Agnus Dei to round off a rather special night of choral singing.
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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:Daily Post (Liverpool, England)
Date:Jul 24, 2002
Words:251
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