by Michael Caruso

The Presbyterian Church of Chestnut Hill chose “Reformation Sunday,” Oct. 27, as the day to dedicate its newly renovated Burleigh Cruikshank Memorial Chapel. The service of dedication took place in the morning. Then, in the afternoon at the traditional time for Vespers, the chapel was the site of a concert of “Cantatas and Chamber Music” that featured Handel’s “Look Down, Harmonious Saint,” Bach’s “Reformation” Cantata No. 80 and the “Quia Respexit” aria from his “Magnificat.”

Dan Spratlan, the congregation’s music director, chose the splendid program and assembled a superb ensemble of singers from the church’s choir and local period instrumentalists to perform its music. The roster of pieces displayed Handel’s peerless mastery of English in a text lauding Saint Cecilia, the Roman martyr and patron of music; Bach’s powerful use of a chorale theme penned by Martin Luther, the former Augustinian friar who launched the Protestant Reformation in 1517 with his 95 Theses condemning abuses of the Roman Catholic Church in Germany and all of Europe; and Bach’s command over a traditional Latin text to the Virgin Mary.

Tenor Kevin Radtke negotiated Handel’s florid vocal line with technical ease and fleet yet eloquent phrasing. Soprano Kelly Ann Bixby was the admirable soloist in “Quia Respexit,” offering operatic fullness of tone and generosity of gesture; she was effectively accompanied by Stephen Bard on oboe d’amore and Ken Lovett on continuo organ. The entire choir and ensemble gave a stirring rendition to the Cantata.


Two Chestnut Hill churches will host concerts this weekend. The Episcopal Church of St. Martin-in-the-Fields will be the site of an all-Vivaldi concert Friday, Nov. 8, 8 p.m., featuring Valentin Radu and Camerata Ama Deus. The Presbyterian Church of Chestnut Hill will host Donald Nally and The Crossing Saturday, Nov. 9, 8 p.m.

Speaking about his program, which is entitled “Antonio di Venezia,” Radu explained, “By the time of Vivaldi, the favored form of the viola d’amore had seven playing strings and seven resonating strings. It was given its name because one string caused another to vibrate without touching it, such as when people fall in love. Our soloist for the ‘Concerto in D minor’ for viola d’amore will be Paul Miller.” For ticket information call 619-688-2800 or visit

Donald Nally will lead his chamber choir, The Crossing, in a concert entitled “Italian Voices.” The program is comprised entirely of contemporary choral music. Ticket information at


The Academy of Vocal Arts Opera Theater opened its production of Mozart’s delightful yet provocative comedy, “Cosi fan tutte,” Saturday, Nov. 2, in its Warden Theater, 1920 Spruce St. Conducted by Christofer Macatsoris and directed by Nic Muni, it’s a “must see” for anyone who either loves or hopes to love opera.

Lorenzo da Ponte gave Mozart a libretto that strips away the delusions of romantic love in favor of a more realistic version of the emotion. Mozart responded with a fascinating pairing of soprano with baritone and tenor with mezzo to start off the shenanigans and then positing the notion that the soprano and tenor may be a better match, after all. And, for added pleasure, all the adventures and misadventures are set into motion by a bass-baritone and a “soubrette” soprano. In other words, “Cosi” is really a comic concoction of vocal ranges with a bouquet of worldly advice thrown in for good measure.

Saturday night’s cast was both vocally and dramatically superb. AVA’s young professionals sang their music and delineated their characters with sophisticated theatricality and a flawless sense of ensemble. Soprano Melinda Whittington as Fiordiligi, mezzo Julia Dawson as Dorabella, tenor Mackenzie Whitney as Ferrando, baritone Michael Adams as Guglielmo, soprano Sydney Mancasoloa as Despina and bass-baritone Daniel Noyola as Don Alfonso all projected singing characterized by tonal beauty and potent personality.

“Cosi fan tutte” continues through Nov. 16. Call 215-735-1685 or visit