SAME-DAY REVIEW: Pasadena Master Chorale’s 9/11 concert at La Crescenta Presbyterian Church

By Robert D. Thomas

Music Critic

Pasadena Star-News/San Gabriel Valley Tribune/Whittier Daily
News

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Pasadena Master
Chorale; Jeffrey Bernstein, conductor

Sunday, September 11, 2011 La Crescenta Presbyterian
Church

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People looking for solace and hope in times of grief often
turn to music and Jeffrey Bernstein, artistic director of the Pasadena Master
Chorale capitalized on that longing on the 10th anniversary of the
9/11 terrorist attacks with a 70-minute concert this afternoon before a
nice-sized audience at La Crescenta Presbyterian Church.

 

The centerpiece of the afternoon was a performance of Faur’s
Requiem, which, as Bernstein noted in a brief talk, is one of the more
hope-filled pieces written in this genre based on the Roman Catholic funeral
liturgy.  However, Bernstein
negated much of the effect of the texts that Faur used by electing to not
provide either printed translations or projections of the Latin and Greek text.

 

Instead, Bernstein concentrated on the composer’s
often-graceful score and led a performance that was usually credible and
occasionally more than that, especially in the Sanctus and In Paradisum movements
where the sopranos sounded quite angelic in their floating lines. Bernstein
also built long arcs of sound in the broader sections, although moments of
intonation insecurity crept in occasionally.

 

The two soloists were exemplary. Soprano Krystle Casey poured
out a lusciously creamy tone in her thoughtful Pie Jesu, while baritone Cedric Berry delivered clear, clarion tone
in his solos during the Offertory and
Libera Me sections. Although the
balance of the program was a cappella, organist Edward Murray was a
disappointingly sloppy accompanist for the Requiem.

 

After opening the concert with the presentation of colors
and the Chorale singing Bernstein’s gentle arrangement of America the Beautiful, Bernstein led three pieces that, as he said,
covered different corners of the American spirit.

 

The simple setting of By
the Waters of Babylon
by Don McLean in his American Pie album was accompanied by 9/11 images assembled by
artist Alex Lopez. A muscular rendition of Virgil Thomson’s arrangement of My Shepherd Will Supply My Need was
notable especially for the Chorale’s diction. Unfortunately, the text was less
understandable in the performance of Ross Lee Finney’s canonic anthem Words to be Spoken. Following the
Requiem, Bernstein and the Chorale curiously elected to encore with Paul
Simon’s America. The performance was
affectionate but, once again, texts would have been helpful.

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(c) Copyright 2011, Robert D. Thomas. All rights reserved.
Portions may be quoted with attribution.

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