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Cathedral acoustics muffle sparkle of 'Brass and Choir'.

Byline: Joyce Tamer

The Worcester Chorus, under the direction of Christopher Shepard, presented the final concert of the Music Worcester season Friday evening in the beautiful setting of the Cathedral of St. Paul. The program titled "Music for Brass and Choir'' also featured organist Ian Watson and the Worcester Brass Consort under the direction of Douglas Weeks.

The program spanned three centuries of choral music, from the important Venetian composer Giovanni Gabrieli to the 20th-century Englishman John Rutter. Selections by J.S. Bach, Ralph Vaughn Williams, Paul Hindemith and the American Daniel Pinkham were also included. Although these seem to be a collection of disparate choral works, they do reflect many interesting connections.

Pinkham was inspired by the works of Gabrieli and in fact subtitled the "Christmas Cantata,'' which was performed Friday evening, Symphony Sacra, a term used by Gabrieli himself in his "In Ecclesiis.'' Pinkham studied with Hindemith, another composer on the program; Hindemith was indebted to Bach and the forms popular in Bach's time. In the third movement of "Apparebit Repentina Dies'' Hindemith uses the popular Baroque form, passacaglia, and he sets the fourth movement in the style of a Bach chorale, though in a more modern tonal language.

The program opened with "Christmas Cantata'' by Pinkham, a native son born in Lynn, Massachusetts, and educated at Harvard. Additionally, the work was written for the New England Conservatory Chorus and its conductor, the late, esteemed Lorna Cooke de Varen. Of the three movements, the second was most effective, with the sopranos singing a unison melody reminiscent of plainchant. The Pinkham, and especially the Hindemith piece that followed, are complex works, rhythmically and tonally, and unfortunately it was difficult to understand words or distinguish individual parts due to the reverberations in the cathedral. In addition, the brass voices often overshadowed the choral voices, not only in these two pieces, but throughout the program. Nevertheless in the second movement of the Hindemith, there was a recitative-like solo sung by Stephan Barnicle in dialog with the chorus, which was thrilling.

After intermission, the audience was invited to join the Chorus in singing the Ralph Vaughn Williams setting of "Old Hundred,'' which they did lustily and with great effect in that vaulted space.

"In Ecclesiis'' demonstrated the origins of antiphonal performance, which was so popular in Gabrieli's time at the Cathedral of San Marco in Venice. It is a wonderful piece and so characteristic of that style of choral and instrumental composition.

J.S. Bach was at his most prolific in the cantata form; from 1704 -1744, a period of 40 years, he wrote nearly 300 of them. The Chorus chose "O Jesu Christe, Meins Lebens Licht'' for this program.

John Rutter's three-movement "Gloria'' was the last piece on the program, providing an opportunity to enjoy the brilliant organ accompaniment so admirably played by Ian Watson.

The Worcester Chorus under Shepard's direction is an excellent choral group, and they sang a thoughtfully conceived, well-prepared and challenging program on Friday.

It was disappointing that so much careful preparation resulted in a performance that could not be fully appreciated because of the venue.
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Title Annotation:Local
Author:Tamer, Joyce
Publication:Telegram & Gazette (Worcester, MA)
Date:Jun 1, 2014
Words:519
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