Monday, April 18, 2016

Elgin Master Chorale Wraps its Season with Restless "Requiem"

Ninety singers were joined by a twenty-five piece orchestra on the Blizzard Theatre stage Sunday for a concert of classics that a city ten times Elgin's size would be fortunate to hear.

This joint appearance with a chamber-sized Elgin Symphony Orchestra and four professional soloists marked the end of a glorious season that included works by Schubert, Beethoven, Rossini, and Verdi performed in venues throughout Elgin in numerous artistic collaborations.

The top of this program featured Vivaldi's Gloria in D Major (ca. 1715), including its introductory Ostro picta sung by soprano Kirsten Hedegaard. She was joined for the Gloria by countertenor Thomas Aláan who covered parts originally written for soprano and contralto.

Their voices traced ornate melodies over long vowels like the arcs of water in a Venetian fountain, and blended beautifully a due with excellent timing and intonation. The chorus surrounded them like an April force of nature: at times stormy or serene, dark or heavenly radiant.

Unamplified music sounds surprisingly good in the Blizzard Theatre; only a cathedral could have improved matters by providing a pipe organ with a voice to match this ensemble. We strained to hear the excellent keyboard work of Jon Warfel, who is recognized locally as the Choirmaster at Elgin's First Congregational Church.

The highlight of the afternoon was the Requiem in C Minor by Johann Michael Haydn, composed for an Archbishop's funeral during a two-week period in December 1771. The younger Haydn has been historically overshadowed by his brother Franz Joseph, though he produced a wealth of music of comparable quality.

But there is nothing much restful in this requiem. The chorus stands throughout the forty-minute work, in which many sections of the Mass are joined together without breaks. Subconscious turmoil is palpable in the counterpoint, and anguished dissonances have led historians to suggest that Haydn's own bereavement at the recent loss of his infant daughter influenced its creation.

Soprano Kirsten Hedegaard, countertenor Thomas Aláan, Maestro Andrew Lewis,
tenor Matthew Dean and baritone Eric Miranda with the Elgin Master Chorale
and the Elgin Symphony Orchestra.

The pathos was evident in solo and duo passages by tenor Matthew Dean and baritone Eric Miranda, and the combination of all four voices as a solo quartet was spectacular. The chorus managed each entrance with great concentration and enunciated the Latin text so well that it was easy to follow in the printed transcription.

The Elgin Master Chorale, its singers, staff and board, accomplished a magnificent feat in this concert, in which every aspect — from the artists to the program booklet — was of the highest caliber. Maestro Andrew Lewis, celebrating ten years as Music Director, presented the chorus in its most highly practiced form, and exhibited complete control of the most important notes of every movement, especially the last one.

And this ensemble in particular represents the ever rising quality of amateur artists in the area, who join together with professionals in significant performances like these to create a record of excellence that continues to redefine Elgin as an important center for the arts.

For more information on coming events, including a rare summer outdoor performance, visit

1 comment:

  1. Just an amazing aural afternoon. Beautiful, compelling music, masterfully performed!