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Local Chorale Day

Two choirs in a day
by Kevin T. McEneaney
Sun May 15th, 2016

Orchestra and choir at Lyall Church. Photo by Kevin T. McEneaney. Front page teaser photo of Robin Clifford by Robert Riemer.

Daniel M. Koch conducted a Mostly Mozart chorale program at Millbrook’s Lyall Memorial Federated Church this past Sunday evening. The forty-one choral singers of various ages displayed unity and clarity of Latin diction in Mozart’s Regina Coeli and Vesperae Solennes de Confessore.

Robin Clifford, a recent M.A. graduate from Purchase College, offered the most impressive moments of the evening in her arresting solos. As a budding soprano, she definitely has a bright future: her natural singing abilities are enhanced, undamaged, by her vocal training. I hope to hear her sing again soon at another venue.   

In the Brahms Intermezzo local violinist Rob Murphy stood out amid the string ensemble. The orchestra boasted only a dozen players and in most numbers young trombonist Eric Iannucci sounded as if he carried the orchestra on his back, so forceful was his unerring phrasing and rhythmic sensibility. Trumpeter Jessica Stein excelled in Handel’s Messiah “Hallelujah” chorus (in which, as accustomed, attendees stood).  

Eight young children from five to ten performed Mozart’s Praise the Lord (in Latin) with admirable enthusiasm. Koch composed lyrics and music for a series of apocryphal anecdotes on the life of Yeshua of Nazareth. While these lyrics were charming, there was a touch of Broadway musical in the setting. Soprano Caitlin Mandracchia sang the lyrics with eloquent phrasing as she elevated the composition.  

Organist Joseph Jacovino performed a Mozart Gigue as a prelude and Mozart’s Fugue in G minor as postlude. This was the second local chorale concert that Koch has sucessfully directed before an enthusiastic audience at Lyall Church, whose acoustics are suitable for such venues.

Afterwards there was a reception with more baked goods than attendees could possibly consume. From behind the scenes, I heard about the multitude of rehearsals by the dedicated singers who performed for free. We hope there will be more such concerts in the future and that solid financial backing might emerge.

Earlier in the day I had attended another chorale event, the annual Cappella Festiva 40th Anniversary concert at Vassar College’s Skinner Hall. Two premiere performances were outstanding: “We are the Voices” with lyrics and music by Jim Papoulis—concerning the theme of young people searching for identity—offered engaging poetry admirably set to music with chorale flourishes; pianist James Fitzwilliam set Siegfried Sassoon’s short World War I lyric “Everyone Sang” (about the reaction of war comrades when they heard of the war’s end) with choir and supporting orchestra to dazzling effect. I expect these two new compositions will not only travel across this country, but will cross oceans.

The youngsters of the Cappella Festiva Chamber choir performed a medley of international songs in varied languages. The short Korean folksong “Doraji” was the most beautiful of these songs, while students displayed energetic enthusiasm for the Japanese folksong “Aizu-Bandai-San” which recounts the story of an idle rich man who squanders inheritance. After intermission, Haydn’s longest Latin service, Missa Solemnis in B flat, was performed.