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22.10.04

Palestrina Choir

This review was first published in the Washington Post (Palestrina Choir, October 20).

The Tuesday Concert Series at The Church of the Epiphany, the only original pre-Civil War downtown church building to have survived to this day, featured four soloists of The Palestrina Choir in a program of selected motets by Renaissance composer Orlande de Lassus, who worked in Munich for most of his 62 productive years. The eight pieces selected from the 1579 work Altera pars selectissimarum cantionum were well chosen and thankful vehicles for Joellen Brassfield (soprano), who really warmed up after a few motets, Marjorie Bunday, the wonderful alto, Michael Harrison (tenor and founder of the 18 year old choir), and bass Darrel Sampson.

The Palestrina Choir devotes itself to Renaissance music of composers like Tomas Luis de Victoria, Thomas Tallis, William Byrd, Clemens non Papa, and of course their namesake, Giovanni Pierluigi da Palestrina. If the four soloists allow for any judgment on the full choir's performance, their concert on Saturday, October 23rd at St. Peter's Catholic Church or the day thereafter at St. Luke in McLean will be an aural treat no one with even the faintest interest in pre-Baroque music should like to miss.

What counts in the "one to a part" pieces by Lassus is less vocal brilliance than cohesiveness, teamwork, and a deep understanding for the subject matter, all of which the four soloists possess in sheer abundance. The concert, starting just after twelve noon, was a perfect respite and provided an oasis of calm and elusive beauty amid the stress and hectic goings-on of work and city life. Well attended as it was, the free concert had plenty of room still for downtowners with better plans for lunch than a fast food sandwich.

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