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Noontime Cantata - November 2006

Sacred PineappleNovember 7th was the latest installment of the Washington Bach Consort’s Noontime Cantata series at the Church of the Epiphany (13th & M - Metro Center) and it presented Cantata BWV 115, Mache dich, mein Geist, bereit, preceded by the B Minor Prelude & Fugue, BWV 544. Diane Heath was the organist. The last time an organist truly excited me during these concerts was Scott Dettra’s performance of the Passacaglia – but even with very occasional slurs and the sense of a ‘studied’ performance, Ms. Heath's performance offered the kind of transport that I suspect many listeners, and certainly I, are looking for in these much cherished events every first Tuesday of the month.

The cantata offered a chorus that sang marvelously together – along with the always professional and dedicated orchestra. Only the soloists – taken from the chorus – were not entirely pleasing. The mezzo, who stepped in for an indisposed counter-tenor, delivered her part in achingly sincere fashion but dropped out of earshot too many times. The baritone seemed to make up in projection for what his colleague was lacking, but then he projected notes that were rather off – which was decidedly no improvement. The soprano did her job reasonably well if without distinction; ditto the tenor. If this element wasn’t excellent, it wasn’t enough to diminish the joy that these events are – and if that was as modest a performance from the soloists as you will ever get from the redoubtable Bach Consort under J. Reilly Lewis (I, for one, have only heard better, otherwise), then in a way that’s a distinction of its own kind.

The introductory talks, helpful and informative to many, still rankle me. For experimentation’s sake I should love – just once – to attend a Noontime Cantata concert where there is only music; neither talking nor applause.

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