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Washington Master Chorale Greets Spring

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Read my review published today in the Style section of the Washington Post:

Charles T. Downey, Master Chorale ends first full season with British choral masterpieces
Washington Post, March 22, 2011

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Herbert Howells, St. Paul's Service (inter alia), St. Paul's Cathedral Choir
Washington has too many choruses, a superabundance of amassed volunteers singing too many performances of overdone symphonic choral repertoire. The dire economic downturn began to cull the herd, but new groups continue to appear. Perhaps the best of these, the Washington Master Chorale, ended its first full season on Sunday afternoon at the National Presbyterian Church, with a sterling spring concert of British choral masterpieces.

Artistic Director Thomas Colohan founded the group as the National Master Chorale in 2009 but rebaptized it at some point this season. The combination of professionals and carefully chosen volunteers paid dividends in the group’s warm, full-bodied but not overblown sound, particularly in unaccompanied motets by Charles Stanford and Edward Bairstow. David Lang gave virtuosic fire to Herbert Murrill’s organ solo “Carillon,” but he did not seem to have a clear sightline to the podium. He was sometimes at odds with Colohan, accompanying the choir in Murrill’s lively “Magnificat” and “Nunc Dimittis” and “Like as the Hart,” that old Herbert Howells standby. [Continue reading]
British Masterpieces: Jewels from the English Choral Revival
Washington Master Chorale
National Presbyterian Church

Britten composed The Ballad of Little Musgrave and Lady Barnard for an unusual male chorus (TTB), made up of the prisoners of war at a German camp (Oflag VIIb in Eichstätt). This included Britten's friend Richard Wood and Fred Henson, who directed the chorus. The text seems like an odd choice given the location of the performances, which Britten edited slightly from its original form. The music was beautifully performed, so I focused on that in the review rather than on the fact that there was way too much chatter in this concert: conductor Thomas Colohan, as well as a reading (not even a recitation) of some of Falstaff's lines to go with the Vaughan Williams selection In Windsor Forest, adapted from the composer's opera Sir John in Love, from 1929, which was based on The Merry Wives of Windsor.


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