by Michael Caruso
The combined adult and youth choirs of St. Paul’s Episcopal Church, Chestnut Hill, presented Choral Evensong Sunday, Oct. 30. Conducted by Zachary Hemenway, the parish’s director of music, and accompanied by organ scholar Joseph Russell, the service stood as a model of the traditional Anglican afternoon liturgy. It was also a reminder that there’s no parish church where Chestnut Hillers can experience Choral Vespers, the Roman Catholic liturgy upon which Evensong is based.
The service’s major musical work was Mendelssohn’s anthem, “Hear My Prayer.” It received a rendition that displayed the outstanding technical prowess of a choir of nearly 80 singers, both young and adult.
The ancient choral tradition in Anglican cathedrals (and their Episcopal American counterparts) is that of a choir of men and boys. The boys sing the treble line while the adult men sing the alto, tenor, baritone and bass parts. Boys’ voices, by and large, do not blend well with adult male and female choristers. However, children’s choirs comprised of both boys and girls tend to work well with adult choirs of men and women, perhaps because both halves of the chorus are mixed in gender rather than solely one or the other.
This efficacy was certainly the case in the Mendelssohn Sunday afternoon. Hemenway elicited a smoothly projected and unaffectedly expressive choral sound that powerfully delineated Mendelssohn’s text of spiritual need and promised reassurance. Of particular note was the fine singing of the two soloists, trebles Lindsey Reinhard and Mary Katherine Bucko.
The recent renovations to St. Paul’s are not only visually impressive. They’re acoustically stunning. The church now boasts acoustics that are among the most supportive in the region.
The Philadelphia Orchestra will present a three-concert “Micro-Festival” Oct. 31 and Nov. 1 and 2 in the Kimmel Center’s Verizon Hall. Music director Yannick Nezet-Seguin will conduct all three concerts, featuring the world premieres of scores commissioned by the orchestra.
Two of the programs, those given Friday at 2 p.m. and Saturday at 8 p.m., will include David Ludwig’s “Bassoon Concerto,” expressly composed by the Curtis Institute of Music faculty member for principal bassoonist Daniel Matsukawa of West Mt. Airy.
Veteran conductor Rafael Fruhbeck de Burgos led the Philadelphia Orchestra in three performances of a program featuring French impressionism Oct. 24 – 26 in Verizon Hall. Violinist Augustin Hadelich joined him for Lalo’s “Symphonie Espagnole;” after intermission Fruhbeck de Burgos and the Philadelphians performed Debussy’s “La Mer” and Suite No. 2 from Ravel’s ballet, “Daphnis and Chloe.”
Whereas Debussy’s music offers clear textures based on pure timbres, Ravel’s luxuriates in sumptuous blends and mixtures of orchestration. While Debussy employed short motifs, linked one to another in an unbroken stream of melody, Ravel deployed long lines of lyricism sustained over shimmering accompaniment.
All the same, both Debussy and Ravel were impressionists in the sense of eschewing the narrative approach of Romanticism in favor of evoking the look, sound and feel of scenes and moods. Under the direction of the 80-year-old Fruhbeck de Burgos (who conducted both works from memory), the Philadelphians played like the orchestra of old. Especially noteworthy was the playing of principal flutist Jeffrey Khaner and that of the French horn section, ably led by principal Jennifer Montone of East Falls.