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The Cape Fear Chorale conducted by Jerry Cribbs, gave the first of its two annual concerts at Grace Methodist Church, offering music by Handel, Schubert, and Vivaldi. All three are optimistic, outgoing works entirely or largely in major keys, so the program had a primarily extroverted quality.
The first piece was Coronation Anthem No. 2 by George Frideric Handel. The brief text in four parts, based on a biblical psalm, was written to accompany the ceremony in which the king received his crown. As such, it is grand and celebratory. In this performance, the opening had a solid rhythm, if also some shaky pitch in the accompanying strings. Stronger definition of the high points would have added to its strength. The second section, rendered with attractive tone, projected a smoother, quieter character. The most effective high points of the performance were in the following “Glory and worship” section. The concluding Alleluia would have benefitted from a bigger, more ringing tone in the chorus.
The following Magnificat in C of Franz Schubert, D. 486, written when the composer was 18, does not show the genius of his Lieder written at a similar age. It moves briskly through the text, treating some of the lines quite briefly. The triumphal opening is followed by a lyrical middle section which featured a fine solo by the orchestra’s oboist. It was a bit puzzling that Mr. Cribbs’ beat didn’t become smaller for the gentle, more intimate sound of this section, with either the instrumental or vocal soloists. The final section returned to the extroversion of the opening. One would have wished for more sense of power and glory and greater delineation of emphasis points in the orchestra.
The most extensive work was the concluding Gloria in D, RV 589 by Antonio Vivaldi. This piece in a dozen short sections featured an appealing variety of instrumental combinations and lyrical contrasts to the stronger sections of praise. The third number, “Laudamus te,” featured two soloists, Jennifer Justus and Rebekah Vaughan. Their singing together was well-balanced, with a light appealing quality. The fifth number, “Propter magnam,” was a short, strong fugal section given a solid presentation by the chorus. A high point of the piece was the lovely lyrical sixth section, with another finely shaped oboe solo. Ms. Justus sang the vocal solo with a rather too diminutive, if still pleasing tone, while the beauty of the intertwined duet of voice and oboe projected radiant devotion. The following tightly rhythmic “Domine Fili” moved fairly quickly to the “Domine Deus,” and a vocal solo by Curtis Campbell, bass. This expressive, pleading section had a fair amount of pathos but was not always clear in the vocal pitch. The chorus and soloist balanced well. The short “Qui tollis” was then followed by the “Qui sedes” and a solo by Molly Darden, who sang with a full tone and emphasis in her expression.
The brief penultimate movement of the piece returned to the opening material; again one might have wished for a brighter, more ringing tone from the chorus at the forte points. The concluding “Cum sancto” was another strong fugal movement which brought the piece to a grand ending.
All three pieces on this program were secondary works by major composers; much of the music stayed on the emotional surface; the Vivaldi offered the greatest depths of expression. The outgoing nature of much of the music made for an enjoyable if relatively light-weight concert that was given rousing applause by an appreciative audience.