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26.9.11

Friday Morning Music Club's Festival of Hope

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See my review of the anniversary concert presented by the Friday Morning Music Club in today's Washington Post:

Charles T. Downey, Volunteer singers’ enthusiasm marks Friday Morning Music Club’s anniversary
Washington Post, September 26, 2011

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Mendelssohn, Elias, E. Ameling, Leipzig Gewandhaus Orchestra, W. Sawallisch
The performance of music at the highest level is made possible by music devotees who are not professionals: the volunteer church choir singers and other amateurs who learn and perform music just because they love it. The oldest group of such lovers of music in Washington, the Friday Morning Music Club, will mark its 125th anniversary next month. The club celebrated Saturday afternoon with a concert in its new home, Calvary Baptist Church in Chinatown, itself celebrating the 150th anniversary of its founding.

Formed by women who enjoyed performing music in one another’s homes, the FMMC now sponsors major competitions and events, among other projects, to support young people finding their way into music careers. The Festival of Hope, a musical memorial to the victims of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, brought together volunteer musicians from FMMC and Calvary along with an honors choir of 25 high school singers. In sound, it was an endeavor distinguished more by the participants’ sincerity and enthusiasm than by musical refinement.
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The Great Composers: Reviews and Bombardments, G. B. Shaw, ed. Louis Crompton
Thinking about this performance sent me back to George Bernard Shaw's delightfully sharp take on Mendelssohn's oratorios: "There is no falling off in the great popularity of Elijah. This need not be regretted so long as it is understood that our pet oratorio, as a work of religious art, stands together with the pictures of Scheffer and Paton, and the poems of Longfellow and Tennyson, sensuously beautiful in the most refined and fastidiously decorated way, but thoughtless. That is to say, it is not really religious music at all." Shaw was even harsher about St. Paul: "Set all that dreary fugue manufacture, with its Sunday-school sentimentalities and its Music-school ornamentalities, against your recollection of the expressive and vigorous choruses of Handel. [...] Then blame me, if you can, for objecting to people pestering mankind with Mendelssohnic St. Pauls and Gounodic Redemptions and Parrysiac Judiths and the like, when one hardly ever hears Jephtha or a Bach cantata. But of what use is it to complain? If my cry were heeded [...] they would straightway kidnap five or six thousand choristers, put Israel in Egypt into rehearsal; and treat me to a dose of machine thunder in the Handel orchestra."

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