Sunday, April 21, 2013

National High School Choral Festival - Whitacre, Lauridsen, Cardoso, Read, Bach, Byrd & Mozart - 04/20/13

North Jersey Homeschool Association Chorale
Whitacre: Water Night
Traditional: Ain't no grave can hold my body down
Arlington High Chamber Singers
Lauridsen: En une seule fleur, from Les chansons des roses
Cardoso: Introitus, from Requiem for Six Voices
Whitacre: With a lily in your hand, from Three Flower Songs
Blue Valley Northwest High School Chorale
Read: Windham (arr. Brad Holmes) Bach: Come, sweet death (arr. Rhonda Sandberg)
Byrd: Sing joyfully
Traditional: My soul's been anchored in the Lord (arr. Moses Hogan)
Orchestra of St. Luke's
Conductor: John Nelson
Nicole Cabell: Soprano
Jamie Barton: Mezzo-soprano
Russell Thomas: Tenor
John Relya: Bass-baritone
Mozart: Requiem, K. 626 (completed by Süssmayr)

Happily back in Carnegie Hall's Stern auditorium yesterday, I couldn't help but be shocked at the number of empty seats for a Saturday night concert featuring Mozart' magnificent Requiem. Granted, it is regularly performed all over the world by the most famous ensembles while, for this occasion, the chorus would consist of high school students instead of the more seasoned professionals typically gracing this prestigious stage. But the Orchestra of St. Luke's and their conductor for the evening, John Nelson, enjoy well-deserved sterling reputations that should have been enough to draw additional music lovers and, again, why not take advantage of an opportunity to hear such a timeless masterpiece for less than a movie ticket? The ways of the public are for sure impenetrable sometimes.

As a bonus, the first part of the concert was a smorgasbord of choral works performed by the three invited choirs. From the easy listening of Eric Whitacre to Gospel-inspired tunes, the performance was pleasantly insightful and engaging. Proving one more time, if need be, that Bach's œuvre will truly survive anything, the high point of the whole series was his "Come, sweet death" courtesy of the very promising Blue Valley Northwest High School Chorale.
Regardless of the controversies about Mozart's actual contribution to the Requiem carrying his name, his signature innate ability to convey universal emotions through technical perfection is deeply imprinted all over it. The straightforward performance of it we got to enjoy last night was most remarkable by the distinctly pure-sounding voices of the terrific chorus, which subtly emphasized the innocence of youth as opposed to the world weariness often expressed by more mature singers. My two favorite movements, the hell-raising "Dies irae" and the haunting "Lacrimosa", were heartily executed, deftly controlled and appropriately intense. The four soloists beautifully raised up to the task and the orchestra played with its characteristic mix of warmth and precision, John Nelson obviously relishing leading the way in such a grand endeavor. Yesterday evening at Carnegie Hall, there was no doubt that the absent are always in the wrong.

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