Chorale's season opens with fervor
By Lawrence Johnson
November 18, 2007
Jubilation across the centuries was the leitmotif for the Master Chorale of South Florida's season-opening program, which offered Gloria settings from Vivaldi, Poulenc and John Rutter.
The Master Chorale's fifth season is somewhat bittersweet, since this is the final one for artistic director Jo-Michael Scheibe who is leaving Florida next fall for a new post as chair of choral music at the University of Southern California.
Scheibe has been a great asset to the region's cultural scene. His dedication and skillful musicianship have been showcased through his work as head of choral studies at the University of Miami, and as chorus-builder with the Florida Philharmonic Chorus and its successor, the Master Chorale.
Sunday afternoon's matinee at Trinity Episcopal Cathedral was
a worthy exemplar of Scheibe's work, with the Master Chorale offering an imaginative program and generally sound performances.
The problem Sunday was the washy acoustic. Trinity is a magnificent, imposing venue, but the soaring ceiling and vast
space tend to reduce clarity, the Chorale's massed voices emerging decidedly muddy.
Oddly, the acoustic was more of a problem in the opening Gloria by Francis Poulenc than in the Vivaldi. A smaller choir would have improved clarity somewhat, but Scheibe skillfully paced the five movements' contrasting expressions of rejoicing, drawing refined and responsive singing from his chorus. Soloist Marvis Martin's big voice is more ripe and operatic than one expects in this spare luminous music, but the soprano sang with power and expressive poise, with her final hushed diminuendo in Qui sedes ad dexteram Patris beautifully rendered.
Although Vivaldi's Gloria likewise suffered from the boomy acoustic, Scheibe's moderate tempos kept the blur to a minimum. Chorale members took supporting solos with varying success, but Martin again provided distinctive solo work, and the Chorale's singing was richly projected in the Gratias agimus tibi. Some bobbled oboes apart, the Boca Symphonia performed well under Scheibe's direction, with the closing Cum Sancto Spiritu highlighted by terrific clarion trumpet work from Jeffrey Kaye.
The Symphonia had greater prominence in the closing work, John Rutter's Gloria, written in 1974. Rutter's three-movement setting verges on silver-screen flamboyance at times, but it's undeniably effective when played and sung well, as it was Sunday. The Boca Symphionia's brass was majestic in the buoyant closing section, and the chorus and soloists sang with apt fervor and refinement
© 2007, Miami Herald.