Lyall Federated Church celebrated its second annual spring concert this past Sunday evening. Written in 1815 when Schubert was 18 over six days, Schubert’s Mass in C gave both choir and soloists opportunity to shine. Lacking the ornate boasts of Mozart’s Mass, in a steady, nearly minimalist, march through the flowering gardens of D, Schubert’s Mass in C conveys a gentle, emotional simplicity that directly hits the heart. The surprise of such simplicity startles and eases the mind into meditation, nearly invoking trance.
Under Daniel Michael Koch the choir of two dozen sang quite well as the orchestra followed vigorous first violinist Rob Murphy. Daniel Frankhuizen on cello turned in an excellent, sensitive performance and Piotr Kargul was especially effective on viola. Schubert’s innovative harmonies in this mass were not noticed during his lifetime, mainly because the piece was not published until after his death. The spirit of the Mass remains one of gratitude for the beatitude of life rather than religious drama. One might say that the music parallels the gentle awaking of flowers that now surround us.
Two years later Schubert wrote one of his most famous songs, “To Music,” a short hymn to the art at which he laid all his prodigious gifts. There is something of eternity in the even pulse of the song. Here soprano Robin Clifford endowed the lyrics with resonant wings. Dramatizing the melancholy Romantic burden of life, the last line of the lieder reads “You sweet art, I thank you for this.”
Daniel Michael Koch’s own arrangement of Praise the Lord by Mozart was performed by a children’s choir of seven. Paraphrasing Psalm 150, Koch added some lyrics and original music. This novelty was received so well last year that it was sensibly re-performed to more perfection.
Donizetti’s nearly forgotten Ave Maria (1821?) permitted Robin Clifford a voice showcase. There was more subtlety of volume in her voice than last year and everyone there hoped to hear her sing again soon.
From Aaron Copland’s “The Promise of Living” from The Tender Land, Clifford was joined by tenor Luke Garrison and bass Bryan Murray, all of whom melded to deliver a delicate balance amid lush harmonies.
The concert concluded with Z. Randall Stroupe’s arrangement of Robert Frost’s poem “The Pasture.” This lyrical hymn to the pastoral world and its humble tasks close to the earth offers perhaps the best musical expression of an American poem. Stroupe’s composition makes the Frost poem come alive in ways that continue to thrill, no matter how many times one has heard this wondrous piece of music.
There was a reception after the concert for people to gather and talk with choir and musicians. Such genial informality and professionalism is rare for such a small town. One left grateful for the musicians and choir who volunteered their time (those rehearsals!) and talent for such a wonderful communal celebration of music that moves the heart.