Choral Society’s spring concert hits celestial note
DILLON – An acceptance of the ultimate limitations inherent in the human condition and a belief in the solace offered to those on earth by heavenly intervention were the age-old themes touched on during Wednesday night’s performance of the “Magnificat,” by J.S. Bach, at Lord of the Mountains Lutheran Church in Dillon.The choral masterpiece, first performed in 1723, is based on the prayer Mary offers after being visited by the angel Gabriel. One can only imagine the ambivalence she felt when she received the news about her future.This ambivalence was expressed clearly in Wednesday night’s performance by the Summit Choral Society.
The 30-voice ensemble, led by director Ann Erdle and accompanied by pianist Justin Stephens, performed seven of the 12 pieces included in Bach’s work, with several of the more upbeat selections omitted, as part of the group’s annual spring concert. An emphasis on the slower, more plaintive movements was perhaps partly due to their greater accessibility for performance, but the overall feeling left with the audience was a combination of sadness and joy – and an awareness of the difficulties felt by human beings when confronted by the divine.After a shaky start in the difficult opening chorus, the group settled into a rousing counterpoint expression of joyful faith. Soprano Gayle Knorr, her rich and powerful voice carefully modulated, brought a mournful quality to the descending minor intervals of the first solo, as the Virgin reflected on her fate as a “lowly handmaiden.” Bass Mike Madsen expressed both physical and vocal animation and beautifully resonant low notes in the usually sedate “For He that is mighty” solo.Alto Erika Krainz and tenor Troy Rogers joined forces in the duet, “Et misericordia,” arguably the most ambivalent of the selections. With words celebrating God’s mercy, Bach chose to write music with overtones of despair. The clarity of Krainz’ alto, together with the lightness of Rogers’ tenor, successfully combined to convey Mary’s conflicting feelings.For the work’s final solo, mezzo-soprano Peggy Madsen lightened the mood, adding cheerful vocal embellishment as she sang about God sending “the rich away hungry.”
The full chorus found its footing with the fugue in “Sicut locutus est,” blending well and singing with confidence and power. The work ended with the traditional “Gloria patri,” energetically rendered and culminating in the same tune and arrangement as the inital chorus – reinforcing the text of the final movement: “as it was in the beginning, is now and ever shall be…”After a brief intermission, the chorus returned to round out the program with interpretations of Mozart’s “Ave verum,” Barber’s “Agnus Dei,” Faure’s “Pavanne” and Rutter’s “A Gaelic blessing.”The Barber piece, based on his “Adagio for strings,” with its difficult intervals and sustained passages, was particularly challenging for the singers. Great dynamic range, a hallmark of the work, was admirably conveyed by the group.It was in the Rutter finale, though, that the chorus truly became more than the sum of its parts. The 30 voices blended into one as they blessed the audience with the traditional words: “deep peace of Christ, the light of the world, to you.”
Harriet Hamilton can be reached at (970) 668-3998, ext. 13624, or at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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