Chorale marks 50th year with festive show Well-balanced program covers baroque to modern

October 02, 1997|By Mary Johnson | Mary Johnson,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

To launch the Annapolis Chorale's silver anniversary year, music director J. Ernest Green displayed the chorale's components -- the Chamber Orchestra, the Chamber Chorus and the full Chorale, all 150 voices with orchestra -- in a performance last weekend

He added a festive note by bringing back some 20 alumni of the chorale. And to show off the versatility of the chorale, Green chose a well-balanced program of baroque to 20th-century music.

A late addition to the program was Gerald Finzi's "My Spirit Sang All Day." The Annapolis Chamber Orchestra did indeed sing here and throughout the instrumental program.

The orchestra was heard in Pachelbel's "Canon in D" and the Fall Concerto from Vivaldi's "Four Seasons" with violinist Luisa Winters. It shone with melancholy romanticism in Barber's "Adagio for Strings" and touched the heart in Percy Grainger's hauntingly lovely arrangement of "Irish Tune from County Derry" ("Danny Boy").

The chorale's program featured music of celebration written 47 years apart -- Henry Gorecki's "Totus tuus" and Randall Thompson's "Alleluia."

In 1940, Serge Koussevitzky commissioned Thompson to write a singable work for a multilingual chorus to open Tanglewood. The result was "Alleluia." In 1987, Gorecki wrote "To-

tus tuus" for Pope John Paul II's visit to Poland. Both are sublimely beautiful works that repeat a word over and over.

Thompson's "Alleluia" starts softly, as a prayer, gathers momentum to its stunning climax, then dies away. The amen becomes almost a musical thank-you. "Alleluia," the most exultant of words, is supplanted in the Gorecki work by the beautiful, echoing "Maria."

The chorale sang both works extremely well, revealing every facet of their intense beauty.

The program concluded with the full chorale, augmented by the orchestra, soprano Carolene Winter and mezzo-soprano Trudy Weaver in Vivaldi's "Gloria."

Both soloists sang beautifully. The instruments of the orchestra and voices of the chorale became indistinguishable as they produced a beautiful composite of multilayered waves of melody. This was a joyous conclusion to the initial Silver Anniversary season concert.

One hopes, however, that during the rest of this season, more emphasis will be placed on vocal performance with orchestral support.

Lovely as the Irish tune was, I longed to hear the voices of the chorale. Barber's "Adagio for Strings," for example, reminded me of the chorale's earlier rendition of an "Agnus Dei" -- the choral version of Barber's work, where his lyricism is more apparent.

The season continues with Handel's "Messiah" on Dec. 20 and 21; a "Bach Birthday Bash" on March 21; and the Verdi "Requiem" on April 25. The pops series features "A Celebration of Christmas" on Dec. 12 and "Mozart, Motown, and More" on Feb. 20 and 21.

Information: 410-263-1906.

Pub Date: 10/02/97

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