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by Pamela Hicks Galley
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CHORAL AND VOCAL REVIEW
Cantiamo Sonoma / Friday, March 29, 2013
St. Cecilia Choir, Cantiamo Sonoma and the Incarnation Chamber Orchestra. Carol Menke, conductor. Clarie Frydenlund, soprano, Marilyn Thompson, organ.

Carol Menke (l) with musicians and singers March 29 at Incarnation

MASTERFUL GOOD FRIDAY CONCERT

by Terry McNeill
Friday, March 29, 2013

Good Friday concerts are always spiritual but often can be monotonous and overly long. Cantiamo and the St. Cecelia Choir’s exceptional program March 29 in Santa Rosa’s packed Church of the Incarnation was anything but mundane, and perhaps too short.

Conductor Carol Menke fashioned a balanced evening, concluding with John Rutter’s animated Requiem, written in 1985 for medium choir, small instrumental ensemble, organ and soprano soloist. The opening Introit (Requiem Aeternam) and Kyrie were beautifully sung by the 30-voice Choir, based at Incarnation, the music beginning menacingly with John Week's hushed timpani playing and a continuo organ part performed by Marilyn Thompson. In the small church the sound had a burnished quality. The following “Out of the Deep” (based on Psalm 130) featured a long and beguiling cello solo by Laura McLellan, winding in and out of the vocal fabric.

Soprano Claire Frydenlund was the soloist in the third-movement motet, Pie Jesu, her high tessitura gleaming and clear. Ms. Menke paced each section with care. The cutoffs were sharp, the conductor at times holding the sound for many seconds and stopping it with a tiny hand movement.

Instrumental charm came forward in the Sanctus and Benedictus with elegant playing from oboist Laura Reynolds and flutist Kathleen Reynolds, punctuated by Tim Dent's crisp glockenspiel execution. Through these movements, harpist Wendy Tamis’ solos could be heard over the high volume of the choir, and her soft arpeggio playing was refined.

Psalm 23 in the sixth movement and the Lux Aeterna finale were captivating, with Ms. Frydenlund’s singing again complementing the polyphony of the choir. It was a polished and even sumptuous performance, guided at every turn by the conductor’s graceful control of phrase.

Sonoma County’s 19-member Cantiamo sang works by Lassus, Rutter, René Clausen, Paul Mealer and Frank Ticheli in the program’s first half. Separated by 413 years, Rutter and Lassus’ music feature striking modulations, especially at the end of the “Open Thou Mine Eyes” and “Taedet Animan Meam,” respectively. The theme throughout in these two works, and in Clausen’s "Deep River," is peace, and Cantiamo captured a lovely tranquility. Ticheli’s “There Will be Rest” ends with the words “I shall find the crystal of peace, above me stars I shall find,” and the calming effect for the beginning of a three-day religious period was palpable.

Numina Center for Spirituality and the Arts produced the concert.