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Subject: The Washington Chorus inaugurates a new era with Bernstein & Belshazzar and BELL (11-8-17)
From: Alan Savada <[log in to unmask]>
Reply-To:Alan Savada <[log in to unmask]>
Date:Fri, 10 Nov 2017 15:53:20 -0500

text/plain (31 lines)

The Washington Chorus began its 57th season with a new conductor and music director in the name of Christopher Bell, who brought great flair to the podium leading three reasonably rare works heard in DC for sure.

The program commenced with one of my favorite pieces Bernstein's "Chichester Psalms" which has to be one of the most tuneful and uplifting pieces largely due to the glorious solos for treble, here flawlessly sung by Aidan Stanton-Brand (being a speaker of Hebrew, I was mightily impressed, less so with the chorus itself on several words!). It's been over two days and I still hear that glorious 23rd Psalm echoing over and over in my head; it's a real hit!

The chorus itself filled the Kennedy Center Concert Hall with their what must have been over 125 members; a true force to be reckoned with. Only when some of the individual choristers sang did their voices get lost in this huge house.

It's been such a long time since I last heard this superb work in DC and only wish it would be programmed more often. I had forgotten how much the ending had those eerie chords so similar to West Side Story!

The second selection, Mortern Lauridsen's "Mid-Winter Songs" was new to me and it was a perfect foil to the Bernstein offering up some Coplandesque strains in one of the five songs, albeit some very opaque poetry that even with extensive program notes was completely lost on me!

The second half of the evening offered up William Walton's "Belshazzar's Feast" which I also was hearing live for the first time ever. Brazilian-born Baritone Igor Vieira was a stolid force for the "narrator" and when he sang a capella, it was a true treat and wonderfully moving. The two brass bands of seven each were in the tiers left and right and rang out during the "Praise ye..." section in the middle. This "oratorio" style work is impressive for sure and a true coup for any chorus, but what a coup the entire evening was for Maestro Bell in his opening concert of his first year with TWC!

Bravo tutti!

ALAN SAVADA of Washington, DC

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