Worcester — “Requiem and Remembrance” was the title of the thoughtfully conceived program presented by the Salisbury Singers and guest artists on Sunday afternoon in the Chapel of the Holy Spirit at Assumption College. The requiem segment of the program was Maurice Duruflé’s “Requiem,” and the “Remembrance” segment consisted of four songs by contemporary Canadian composers.
Michelle Graveline, conductor, and the Salisbury Singers opened the program with “Remember,” a song by Stephen Chatman on a poem by Christina Rossetti, which mourns a lost love. This was sung a cappella with a lovely rich tone and clear enunciation of the words. Eleanor Daley is the composer of the second piece, “For the Fallen,” which reflects on war and its losses. The chorus was joined in this piece by a solo trumpet and solo cello, unfortunately played with inaccurate intonation which detracted from the rich harmonies sung by the chorus. Stephen Hatfield’s piece, “All Too Soon,” was a remembrance of home and was poignantly sung.
The fourth of the group of Canadian songs was “Song for the Mira” sung by the Worcester Children’s Chorus, and what a delightful little group they were!
Conducted by Jennifer Kane and accompanied by Malcolm Halliday on piano and Lydia Consilvio on oboe, the young people sang in tune, with precise rhythm, and with a pleasing relaxed tone. Working with their talented conductor to produce more focused vowel sounds will help them to improve. It was a wonderful experience for this group to sing on a concert program with adults and a perfect training ground to prepare future singers for choruses in the area. Kudos to all involved in this arrangement.
Christopher Walters was the guest conductor for the Duruflé Requiem which was accompanied by the Salisbury Chamber Orchestra and organist William Ness. Kyle Siddons provided the baritone solo within the third and eighth sections of the Mass, and the Worcester Children’s Chorus sang the “Pie Jesu” segment with poise and sensitivity. Overall, the Salisbury Singers gave a competent performance, with good dynamic shadings and phrasing. However, the soprano section of the chorus did not meet the high standard set by the altos and the male voices, often sounding tentative and strained. They will need to work diligently to match the fine singing of their colleagues. Entrances in all voices, which were precise in the group of Canadian songs, were not always secure in the Requiem, so one needs to look at the baton technique of the conductor. Walters has a very unobtrusive and fluid conducting technique, which bodes well for relaxed singing, but he must be certain that the beat is precise and clear for his singers. This issue will certainly be resolved as he completes his doctoral studies.
The chamber orchestra, as small as it was, overpowered the singing and the clarity of the text. Given the beautiful sonorities created by William Ness and the sensitivity of his playing, one wished that the organ alone had been used for accompaniment.
Despite some flaws, the program was enjoyable and effective in conveying its message, and future programs of the Salisbury Singers are eagerly anticipated. The inclusion of the Worcester Children’s Chorus was a delightful addition and a wonderful idea. We look forward to hearing them again.
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