Everlasting joy flowed from a superb choir performance

MARLBORO — Ninety musicians presented a double requiem chorus this past weekend which brought joy and light to listeners in packed pews at the First Baptist Church in Brattleboro.

It was yet another superb production by the well-trained and well-rehearsed Brattleboro Concert Choir, aided by vocal soloists and instrumentalists all under the baton of Conductor Susan Dedell.

This was the work of two contemporary composers, Bob Chilcott and Morten Lauridsen. Chilcott's Requiem text comes from both the Missa pro defunctis and the Anglican Book of Common Prayer. Lauridsen's Lux Aeterna is drawn from the beginning and ending of the Requiem Mass plus three movements from the Te Deum, O Nata Lux, and Veni, Sancte Spiritus. Other than a short break, there was no intermission in the 80-minute performance.

The tympanum of Steve Rice ominously opened the Chilcott piece, and a lovely choral sound emerged, praying the Lord to grant eternal rest to the deceased and that light perpetual shine upon them.

The woodwind and organ accompaniment was faultless. The choral offertory that followed sweetly urged that the dead pass from death to life as promised to Abraham and his descendants.

The chorus then echoed soprano Junko Watanabe and tenor Peter Shea in the Pie Jesu and Agnus Dei, respectively, asking “Gentle Jesus” and “Lamb of God, that takest away the sins of the world” to grant them rest.

The solo voices were perfectly tuned to the music, and the choral responses were beautiful beyond belief.

The Sanctus built to a rousing crescendo, “Hosanna in the highest.” The subsequent Prayer Book verses were perfectly suited, and Watanabe sang over the closing chorus, “Agnus Dei - Lux Aeterna,” in an exciting blend that brought tears to the eyes.

Lauridsen's choral piece “O Magnum Mysterium” is a top best-seller, and one concertgoer confessed that she followed the longer masterpiece, Lux Aeterna, around the country wherever and whenever it is performed!

The orchestra was supplemented by strings for the Lauridsen piece.

The chorus exploded with “exaudi orationem meam” (Hear my prayer) and “perpetua” (perpetual) light. The tuneful, dance-like O Nata Lux and Veni, Sancte Spiritus gave the chorus a chance in both instances to demonstrate their magnificent blend and discipline.

The perenne gaudium (everlasting joy) flowed in abundance in the closing section of the piece.

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