The Berkshire School, Sheffield MA
July 25, 2009
Each summer the Berkshire Choral Festival offers enthusiastic singers a chance to attend singing camp, and to produce vocal and orchestral concerts of the largest scale. The late-July concert featured Magnificat by Felix Mendelssohn and Requiem by Gabriel Faure.
The week's 220 singers were in residence at The Berkshire School to rehearse under the direction of guest conductor Simon Carrington. Required to sing in both Latin and German, they sang as one voice with crisp diction, showing tonal security as they answered and supported the four soloists (Arianna Zukerman, Mary Gerbi, Carmund White, and George Cordes).
The chorus seemed most secure with the post-intermission piece, the "Faure Requiem," and was outstanding on the Offertoire and Sanctus sections. Zukerman sang with plaintive longing on the Pie Jesu section. The cello section of the orchestra was especially beautiful throughout and the organ's strong presence was an integral part of the orchestration.
The first half of the program ended with Mendelssohn's lyrical "Her Mein Bitten (Hear My Prayer)." Again, Zukerman had full command of this piece, and the chorus answered her with smooth transitions and supportive tonal security. Both chorus and soloist were adept at creating the longing and need that the "Psalm 55" words express.
The first offering, "Mendelssohn's Magnificat," was perhaps the weakest of the three. Although the chorus was effective in this piece, the presentation lacked vibrancy and there were intonation problems among the soloists when they sang as a quartet, perhaps reflecting limited preparation time.
The Springfield Symphony Orchestra provided a strong instrumental and professional presence throughout the evening, and the musicians seemed to enjoy the melodic beauty of these scores.