A `heavenly' return to Carnegie Hall

Annapolis Chorale gives ethereal flair to Haydn's Mass in B flat major

Arundel Live

November 29, 2001|By Mary Johnson | Mary Johnson,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

The Annapolis Chorale took the stage at Carnegie Hall last week for a half-hour performance that made the main event that followed, a production of Handel's Messiah, seem earthbound in comparison.

In the group's second appearance at the legendary concert hall in eight years, the chorale delivered an ethereally sung performance of Haydn's Mass in B flat major. The group followed this effort with another equal in near-perfection when it sang Mozart's sublime Ave Verum Corpus.

The chorale was one of a dozen choruses invited to sing at a performance of Messiah on Nov. 20 at Carnegie Hall.

The Annapolis Chorale's return to Carnegie Hall - the group performed there in 1993 - required 60 members of the group to devote long hours to rehearsals. Chorale spokeswoman Vera Holt said the rehearsals started on a Sunday in the undercroft of a church in New York City, while worship services took place on the floor above, and continued for parts of three days, ending just a half-hour before the Carnegie Hall performance.

After recent, critically praised performances of Faure's Requiem and Schubert's Mass in G, the chorale might have been forgiven for going back to these pieces to coast easily into the Carnegie Hall show. Instead, conductor J. Ernest Green chose the Haydn Mass and Mozart piece - two rarely performed works - to balance the program and provide exciting challenges for his choristers.

"We could have done the Schubert, but I thought we should do this Haydn and really do it," Green explained, adding that he'd told the chorale members: "Let's do something that's ours. It's a chance for us to shine by ourselves."

After Green strode on to the Carnegie Hall stage, the chorale took full possession of Haydn's Mass and of the fabled concert space. The group's sound was never as distinctive or bright as it was in the lovely Haydn work, helped by the Carnegie Hall acoustics.

The performance reached a heavenly realm when soprano soloist Amy Cofield sang the Benedictus. Smiling serenely, Cofield looked like an angel as she sat listening to the chorale. When she began to sing, the illusion of her as an angel was complete, as she and Green wove a beautifully shaped performance.

The Haydn Mass was followed by a work that equaled its near-perfection, Mozart's sublime Ave Verum Corpus. With these two jewels the Annapolis Chorale reached new heights.

The chorale then joined in a presentation of Messiah based on English composer and conductor Sir Eugene Goossens' orchestration of the classic. The chorale was the only group that remained on stage for both halves of Messiah.

Perhaps the Goossens edition of Messiah was too large a work to follow the Annapolis Chorale's two exquisite, small pieces. However, this Messiah was not without some high moments. It was especially moving in the second part, beginning with the choral singing of "Behold the Lord of God."

The Annapolis Chorale will perform a full version of Messiah at 8 p.m. Dec. 15 and a shorter version at 3 p.m. Dec. 16. Both performances are at St. Anne's Episcopal Church in Annapolis.

Call 410-263-1906 for more information.

Baltimore Sun Articles
Please note the green-lined linked article text has been applied commercially without any involvement from our newsroom editors, reporters or any other editorial staff.